Boston: B. Green, 1716. First Edition. Small 4to (207 x 153 mm). A complete copy would collate: A-P4 and be paginated: , ii., 120 pp. This copy is DEFECTIVE, lacking title [A1], most of the text of fols. A2-3, lacking fols. D2-3 (pp. 23-25), final leaf frayed. Numerous chips and tears, affecting text, and soiling. BINDING: contemporary American brown calf over scaleboard (i.e. scabbard) wood (split and defective; leather quite worn; textblock disbound with string sewing supports removed, lacking endleaves). A POOR copy, and priced accordingly. Preserved in a cloth protective case. Poor. Item #3657
First edition of this landmark work. "One of the rarest in its class. I have never seen a copy for sale" (Sabin, writing in 1871). Streeter was unable to procure a copy (perfect or defective), and to our knowledge only two copies have appeared at auction since 1900: Nebenzahl (2018: $125,000) and Siebert-Snider copies (2005: $108,000). These were not "asking prices," but prices realized. Indeed, the first edition of Church's "Entertaining Passages" is justly considered one of the mythic black tulips of early Americana. It is of supreme importance for our knowledge of Native American Indians, and remains the most vivid and informative contemporary account of King Philip's War (1675-1676) according to Sabin.
PROVENANCE: numerous inscriptions (possibly Newbury, Mass.) -- It is conjectured that "Joseph Pike" may have been Joseph Pike of Newbury, MA (1674-1757). His grandfather was Capt. John Pike (1613-1690) of Newbury, brother of Maj. Robert Pike (1638-1694) of Newbury. Robert Pike actually fought in King Philip's War, and indeed Church actually reported to him. Pike's family would have been intensely interested in reading Church's "Entertaining Passages," particularly since a letter (27 Nov. 1690) from Church to Maj. Pike appears in full on p. 80 of the present first edition.
We suggest the Newbury provenance because of another inscription inside the back cover: "Jonathan Poor his book." There were numerous individuals of this name in Newbury in the late 17th- and early 18th-centuries. The identifications of two other early inscriptions herein are conjectured: "John Rice" (1704-1771) who was the father of "Eunice Rice, Her Book" (1751-1834).
SIGNIFICANCE OF THE TEXT: "Of all the works relating to the events of King Philip's War, this was, perhaps, the most popular. It was compiled by Thomas Church from the notes of his father, Col. Benjamin Church, an important actor in the war" (Church). In addition to the events of King Philip's War, the book describes subsequent expeditions against the Indians (1690, 1692, 1696, and 1703-4) in which the elder Church had served.
Church's narrative was immensely influential, providing an account "that stirred the very heart of New England, holding 'children from play and old men from the chimney corner,' having indeed a spell almost beyond the reach of literary art. It is a soldier's bluff narrative of his own dangerous and enticing adventures; it is full of individual incidents -- risks, grapplings, bloodshed, leaps in the dark, all manner of stern things. The reader seems to be a listener, and to be sitting by the side of this scarred and ancient paladin of the New England bush-whackers, and to hear his very talk, as he narrates, frankly, vividly, and always with a strong man's modesty, the deeds that once saved every New England man’s door-post from being bespattered with the blood of his own wife and children." (Moses Coit Tyler, History of American Literature II, 140).
RARITY: According to ABPC and RBH, only two other copies have been sold at auction since 1900 (Streeter was unable to secure a copy).
1. Nebenzahl copy: sold at Christie's 2018: $125,000 (modern brown morocco over marbled boards some page numbers and "Finis" slightly shaved). -- previously sold Christie's NY 2012: $56,250 ("last two signatures possibly supplied") -- previously sold Sotheby's London 1987 GBP 6800 (not including BP).
2. Siebert-Snider copy: sold at Christie's 2005 for $108,000 (contemporary speckled sheep binding over thin wooden boards). Important early provenance: presentation copy to Gen. Francis Nicholson (1655-1728). -- previously sold at Siebert sale 1999: $96,000. -- Herman Le Roy Edgar sale, Anderson 1920 -- Rosenbach 1917 catalogue: $2500.
To these we add the copy in the 1938 Eberstadt retail catalogue (now Yale?) with the title-page in facsimile -- Previously Roderick Terry, sold Anderson 1935: $80. -- Previously Libby 1920 catalogue: $450
Copies that appeared at auction before 1900:
A. Bangs auction, 1886 (binding not noted, last line on p. 120 cropped)
B. Murphy copy, sold 1884 (contemporary sheep)
C. Drake-Brinley-Ives copy, first sold 1879 (19th-century half russia binding interleaved).
BINDING: Scaleboard (a.k.a. scabbard or scabboard) was made from very thin sheets of wood that had been split (going towards the grain) instead of being sawed. Owing to their fragile nature, the survival rate of early American scaleboard bindings is not high considering that they were once ubiquitous on schoolbooks such as this one. Because our binding is seriously damaged, its construction is readily apparent: the grain of the scaleboard is horizontal, a common New England practice. The use of scaleboard in early American bookbindings has received considerable scholarly attention of late; see Renee Wolcott's "Splintered: The History, Structure, and Conservation of American Scaleboard Bindings" in: Book and Paper Group Annual vol. 32 (2013) pp. 58-79, with a bibliography of no less than 32 references.
LIBRARY LOCATIONS WORLDWIDE: AAS, Boston Public Library, Harvard, Huntington, Massachusetts Historical, Newberry, Univ. Michigan Clements, NYPL, University of Florida, Philadelphia Athenaeum, JCB, Southern Maine Osher, Peabody Essex, Redwood Library, Allegheny College, National Library of Scotland.
REFERENCES: ESTC W31912. Church 862. Evans 1800. Howes C-405 ("dd"). Sabin 12996; Vail 321. Wroth, Mirror of the Indian 69.