Mary Robinson

Increase Mather (1639–1723).
The Mystery of Christ Opened and Applyed. In Several Sermons, Concerning the Person, Office, and Glory of Jesus Christ.
Boston: Richard Pierce for Joseph Browning, 1686. (01770)

The first blank leaf of this 1686 Boston imprint bears an inscription that reads, “Mary Robinson’s book. Given her by the Reverend Mr. Increase Mather, June 22, 1698.” This inscription is the earliest evidence of female ownership of an American book preserved at Bridwell Library.

Although nothing more about this Mary Robinson is known, she clearly had a direct (if only brief) personal connection to the book’s author, Rev. Increase Mather. It seems likely that she wrote and dated the inscription with a sense of history and recognition of Mather’s immense religious and political influence within New England society. The head minister of Old North Church in Boston from 1664 and President of Harvard College from 1685, Mather preached for moderation at the Salem Witch Trials of 1692, writing that it was better to let ten witches go free than to condemn one innocent person.

Listen as curator Dr. Eric White talks about Mary Robinson during a tour.

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