For students and scholars studying early American literature, Anne Bradstreet, is a hugely important figure, considered by many to be the first American poet, and the first woman to publish a book in America. Following the digitization of the only substantial surviving Bradstreet manuscript, scholars around the world will now have the opportunity to study her work in greater detail than ever before.
The manuscript, “Meditations Divine and Morall,” was penned by Bradstreet circa 1664, and is owned by the Stevens Memorial Library in North Andover, Mass. The digitization was part of a cooperative project between the Stevens Library and Houghton Library, where the manuscript has been on deposit since 1972.
“It’s an incredibly important document, and certainly we’ve had a number of requests from researchers to study it over the years,” said Leslie Morris, curator of modern books and manuscripts at Houghton Library. “It is quite unusual for a literary manuscript of this period in America to survive, so it is clearly something that demands a high-quality, color facsimile, and that is something we have the ability to create here.”
“We’re thrilled that this manuscript has been digitized,” said Mary Rose Quinn, director of the Stevens Memorial Library. “The digitization has broadened our access and the access for scholars to this very important work, which in the past had been limited to poor-quality photocopies.”
Prior to being digitized, the manuscript underwent conservation treatment at the Weissman Preservation Center to allow the pages to open more easily, Morris said. Other conservation work included repairs to page edges to ensure Bradstreet’s writing, which often goes right to the edge of the page, would remain intact during photography.