Contents of the Earl Morse Wilbur Rare Book Collection
A review of the following lists by author and date will provide you with an introduction to the Collection.
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The list by Author offers up the rich cast of characters that have pieced together the tapestry of our Unitarian History.
Here are a few notes on a selection from the list by Author:
Adams, A. Abigail Adams (1744–1818) represents one of a handful of women in the Collection. The book in the Collection (published in 1840) is a collection of her letters. She was the wife of John Adams, the second president of the United States, and the mother of John Quincy Adams, sixth president.
Bellarmino, R. (1542–1621) was a Jesuit theologian. The Collection contains three works by Bellarmino, all in Latin.
Belsham, T. (1750–1829) was a leader of English Unitarian churches following Priestley and Lindsey. The Collection has nine works by Belsham, dated 1809 to 1820. He occupied Lindsey’s pulpit in 1805. There are nine works by Belsham in the Collection, including a book on the controversy between Joseph Priestley and Bishop Horsley and a book on the memoirs of Theophilus Lindsey.
Beze, T. was a Protestant reformer who was close to Calvin. He devoted much of his enthusiasm to smoking out heretics. There are five works by Beze in the Collection, all in Latin.
Biddle, J. (1615–1662) is often thought of as the Father of English Unitarianism. He died in prison after he translated the Life of Socinus, two Racovian Catechisms and Twelve Arguments, which was ordered by Parliament to be burned by the hangman.
Biandrata, G. (1515–1588) was the closest advisor to the only Unitarian King in history, John Sigismund (1540–1571). Giorgio Biandrata was a key figure in establishing Antitrinitarianism in Poland, and his commitment to toleration of all viewpoints helped to make Transylvania kind of environment that would allow for individual freedom of conscience.
Calvin, J. (1509–1564) hardly needs an introduction. A French theologian who was one (with Luther) of the leaders of the Protestant Reformation, Calvin is known for his belief in human sinfulness and consequent development of the doctrine of predestination. His Institutes of the Christian Religion is a clear and logical overview of the Protestant system of belief. Earl Morse Wilbur states that it is this book which “...caused him to be recognized as the intellectual leader of the Reformed religion.”
Channing, W.E. William Ellery Channing (1780–1842) was “the single most important figure in the history of American Unitarianism.” He graduated from Harvard and became the minister of the Federal Street Church in Boston in 1803. His Baltimore sermon, Unitarian Christianity, preached in 1819 “stands as the defining statement of the movement, and in its wake the American Unitarian Association was formed in 1825.” The Collection contains a copy of the sermon Unitarian Christianity, delivered at the ordination of Jared Sparks. Also included in the Collection is Channing’s indictment of slavery and several other works.
Chauncy, C. Charles Chauncy (1705–1787), active in New England, was a leader in the liberal theological movement. He was critical of the emotional, irrational nature of the Great Awakening. He tended to be Universalist in his arguments for the position that the punishments of hell were not eternal, and that “...all humanity would eventually be redeemed” The Collection contains seven works by Chauncy, dated from 1741–1785.
Clarke, J. F. James Freeman Clark (1810–1888), made a contribution to Unitarianism that is exemplary. He defended Ralph Waldo Emerson by publishing his poetry in the Western Messenger. He was a colleague of Frederick Henry Hedge and Margaret Fuller. His work stands out as being pragmatic in nature.
Crell, J. There are 13 works by Johannes Crell (Crellius) in the Collection. He was a Socinian scholar and leader who revised the first five books of the 1612 work on Socinianism originally composed by Volkel. This work on Socinianism is the “completest and best systematic treatment.”
David, F. Francis David was condemned to prison for “innovation in doctrine.” The doctrine in question was the view that Christ should not be invoked in prayer, which was a view held by non-adorants. David was the Bishop of Transylvania, and was viewed by Faustus Socinus and Giorgio Biandrata as being too radical and thus not as good a leader for the movement as he might have been. Biandrata asked Socinus to travel to Kolozsvár (1578) to try to convince David that he should take a more conservative view, but after several months of attempting to convert David, Socinus returned to Krakow to live rather than to Basel, the town from which he came. David died in prison in 1579.
Darwin, C. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, published in 1860 is included in the Collection.
Edwards, J. Jonathan Edwards (1703–1758) is represented by eight volumes in the Wilbur Collection. His most famous is A Careful and Strict Enquiry Into The Freedom of Will, published in 1754. This book, called by Thomas Jefferson “one of the few great books of English theology” was a special plea bolstering for a while longer the Calvinism of the total depravity and corruption of man’s nature. (From the notes of Decherd Turner, appraiser of the Wilbur Collection)
Emlyn, T. Thomas Emlyn (1663–1741), was an Irish Presbyterian minister who became an Arian. For eleven years he managed to preach to his congregation without revealing his true views on the doctrine of the Trinity. When it came to the attention of Dublin ministers they asked him to leave his pulpit, but the members of his congregation asked him to take a leave of absence in London instead. This plan did not have the intended outcome, and Emlyn wound up in prison and was, according to Earl Morse Wilbur, “...the last Dissenter to suffer imprisonment for denial of the Trinity.”
Erasmus, D. Desiderius Erasmus (1466–1536) was a Dutch scholar who attempted to reconcile faith with moderation and toleration. He attacked the fanaticism, superstition and violence of the church with merciless wit. The Collection contains two works by Erasmus.
Freeman, J. James Freeman (1759–1835) was appointed “reader” (1782) at King’s Chapel in Boston. Freeman had difficulty with the doctrine of the Trinity, but since King’s Chapel was Episcopalian, he felt he should resign. Freeman was persuaded to deliver a series of sermons which clarified his perspective. As a result of these sermons, the congregation agreed to amend the liturgy, and then proceeded to ordain him because the Episcopal Church refused his request. Thus, King’s Chapel became the first Unitarian Church in North America.
Horsley, S. Samuel Horsley (1733–1806), Archdeacon and then Bishop of the Church of England, engaged in a controversy with Joseph Priestly that spanned eight years, with both parties claiming victory in the end.
Hume, D. David Hume (1711–1776) was a Scottish empiricist important to liberal religious thinking, as his work questioned acceptance of superstition and authority. He was influenced by Francis Hutcheson (see below) and John Locke, also represented in the Collection.
Hutcheson, F. Francis Hutcheson (1694–1746) was most interested in whether or not an act promoted the general welfare of humankind. The Collection contains two of his best known works: An Inquiry into the Original of Our Ideas of Beauty and Virtue and A Short Introduction to Moral Philosophy.
Joris, D. David Joris (1501–1556) was a Dutch Anabaptist. He determined to go into hiding under an assumed name after his mother was put to death. He settled in Basel, where he lived in comfort, earning the respect and trust of people in his new setting. All the while, he was in secret correspondence with his Anabaptist followers in Holland. Earl Morse Wilbur describes the turn of events after Joris’s death as “...one of those droll humors which sometimes enliven the page of religious history. Three years later the real identity of Jan van Brugge was discovered. The pious citizens of Basel were scandalized beyond measure. Little could now be done to mend matters, but that little was done in the most thorough manner. In accordance with an old medieval custom a formal trial was instituted against the deceased. The theological faculty of the University investigated the case of David Joris and found him guilty of the most blasphemous heresies; whereupon the authorities passes sentence of burning upon the heretic. His grave was opened, and his body was exhibited to the spectators, and was then, along with all his books and his portrait, publicly burnt by the common hangman, after which his family were required to do penance in the cathedral.”
King, T.S. Thomas Starr King (1824–1864) was the son of a Universalist minister. He became the minister of a Unitarian church in Boston, then decided to accept the call of the Unitarian church in San Francisco. In California he became a prominent figure through his extended speaking engagements along the West Coast. He is credited with saving California for the North during the Civil War. A statue of Thomas Starr King is in the Hall of Statues in Washington D.C., two mountains are named after him, several Mason Lodges affiliate with his name, as well as a few schools. Most notably, Starr King School for the Ministry is named in his honor. He was a man of astounding abilities who accomplished more in his brief 39 years than most could undertake in two long lifetimes. On the day that he died flags were lowered throughout the state. He is buried in San Francisco on the grounds of the First Unitarian Society.
Leibniz, G.W. Leibniz is represented in the Collection by his Essais de Theodice, which he was prompted to write by his pupil, the Queen of Prussia, who as disturbed by Bayle’s pronouncement of a conflict between faith and reason. In opposition to Bayle’s suggestion that experience tends to support Maichaeism rather than orthodox religion, Leibniz here develops his view, made notorious by Voltaire, that this is the best of all possible worlds. (From the notes of Decherd Turner on appraisal of Collection)
Lindsey, T. Theophilus Lindsey (1723–1808) left a comfortable life with his parish of Catterick, England, because he did not feel he could continue offering worship to Christ and the Holy Spirit when he knew the Bible taught worship of God alone. After resigning and falling on hard times, Lindsey founded a church in London where he could follow a reformed liturgy and a revised prayer book. The Collection includes his famous farewell address to his congregation at Catterick,a book of common prayer a defense of Joseph Priestly, who had befriended him during his struggle through hard times, as well as eleven other works.
Locke, J. John Locke (1632–1704) was the founder of British Empiricism. Locke, in his A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689) states that, within certain limits, no one should dictate the form of another’s religion. The Collection has one title by Locke, published in 1699.
Luther, M. According to Earl Morse Wilbur, the Catholic monk Martin Luther had no intention of creating the Protestant Church when he nailed his 95 theses on the church door at Whittenberg. The Collection contains three works by Luther.
Mather, C. Cotton Mather (1663–1728) was a Puritan preacher and author of 450 books on a variety of topics. One of the best known works by Mather is Magnalia Christi Americana, a fascinating account of early Puritan efforts to establish their religion.
Mayhew, J. Jonathan Mayhew (1720–1766)
These descriptions are a work in progress. Please check in again for more.
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