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Jonathan Edwards collection

Call Number: GEN MSS 151
Scope and Contents

The Jonathan Edwards Collection consists of writings, correspondence, documents, printed materials, photographs, and artifacts documenting the lives and work of Jonathan Edwards and his family. The collection spans the years 1696-1972, but the bulk of the material dates from 1726-1758, during the years of Jonathan Edwards's ministry. The collection contains the great majority of Edwards's surviving manuscripts, and as such is a particularly rich resource for examining the man and his theology.

The Collection is housed in 38 boxes and is organized in ten series: Writings of Jonathan Edwards, Jonathan Edwards Correspondence, Church Papers, Edwards Family Writings, Edwards Family Correspondence, Genealogical Notes and Other Family Papers, Printed Material, Visual Material, Artifacts, and History of the Collection. Box 38 contains Oversize items.

Series I, Writings of Jonathan Edwards (ca. 1720-1784), the largest series in the collection, is organized into three subseries: Sermons, Notebooks and Memoranda, and Personal Writings. There are over one thousand sermons, enabling the reader to track Edwards's homiletic activities over his entire career. The sermons are arranged in the order of the books of the Bible. A page number in parentheses refers to the page on which the doctrine or subject is found.

Edwards often wrote on odd pieces of paper that had been sewn together, and there is ample evidence of this habit in the Writings. These scraps may be anything from blank space on a letter he received, blank areas of printed items such as broadsides and newspapers, prayer requests from his congregation, and scraps from his daughters' painted paper fans (as described in Jane Greenfield's "Notable Bindings VIII," Yale University Gazette 68 [October 1993] 70-73). The sermons are an average 4" x 4", and the oversize sermons, housed in boxes 13 and 14 and also arranged in canonical order, are approximately 6" x 4". The sewing of these booklets indicates the order of construction, often giving clues to later revisions and additions.

Generally speaking, sermons written before 1742 are fully written out, but after that date they appear in outline form and are increasingly difficult to read. Edwards began to date his sermons in 1733, and it may be assumed that undated sermons which have the scripture text or the first page present were likely written before that date. It should be noted that until 1752 the Julian calendar was used, and dates on the sermons and correspondence in this collection reflect dating practices common at that time. Edwards had a practice of "reusing" his sermons, in some cases tipping in new parts of a sermon, in others simply bracketing parts of the sermon he wished to use. Those he altered carry multiple dates. Notes by The Works of Jonathan Edwards staff, used to identify and date many of the sermons, have been photocopied onto acid-free paper and are included with them.

Three sermon notebooks accompany the sermons, one of them containing a note for the Farewell Sermon Edwards gave at Northampton (box 14, folder 1154). There are also thirty-four folders of fragments, some with notes from others on the verso.

The sermons are supplemented by Edwards's private theological and philosophical notebooks and memoranda. These notebooks range from nearly finished versions of treatises to rough jottings. They are in a larger format than the sermons (mostly folio), and some are written in the margins of printed newspapers, broadsides, and books. A number of notebooks are dedicated to single themes, some of which are notes toward published materials. Included among the 41 notebooks are the nine volumes of "Miscellanies," eight volumes of theological notes composed of 1,360 entries of varying length, with an index created by Edwards; and four volumes of "Notes on the Scripture." There is also an interleaved Bible Edwards acquired from his brother-in-law, which is a disbound copy of the King James version of the Bible, interleaved with blank folio paper (box 17, folder 1216). There are detailed notes on every interleaved page relating to the text of the Bible opposite the page.

The Personal Writings section contains only five items, including a diary and memorandum book kept from 1733-1757 (box 21, folder 1267), and a copy of Edwards's will, dated March 1753, written in an unidentified hand (box 21, folder 1270). The original is in the Hampshire County Court House, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Series II, Jonathan Edwards Correspondence (ca. 1735-1757), highlights Edwards's activities as a parent, pastor, and entrepreneur, his contacts with English and Scottish divines, and his efforts to publish such works as the Humble Inquiry and Freedom of the Will. The series is housed in one box and is organized into Outgoing Letters, Incoming Letters, and Third Party Correspondence. Principal correspondents include Joseph Bellamy and Thomas Foxcroft. Third Party Correspondence contains three letters written by others but concerning Jonathan Edwards. Series III, Church Papers (1735-1751), is arranged chronologically and is housed in one box. It consists mostly of reports of meetings of the First Parish at Northampton. Included is the report of the council which voted the dismissal of Edwards in June 1750 (box 23, folder 1350).

The rest of the collection relates primarily to Jonathan Edwards's family and descendants, and to the history of the Jonathan Edwards papers prior to their arrival at Yale in 1900. Among these family members most frequently represented are Jonathan Edwards's father, Timothy Edwards (1669-1758), minister of East Windsor, Connecticut; son Jonathan Edwards (1745-1801) and his son Jonathan Walter Edwards; and sister Hannah Edwards Wetmore (1713-1773) and her daughter Lucy Wetmore Whittelsey.

Series IV, Edwards Family Writings (1704-1904), is arranged alphabetically by author and then by title. There are a large number of religious writings such as sermons and confessions of faith, as well as personal diaries. Included are Timothy Edwards's sermon notebooks, the journal of Jonathan Edwards (1841-1886), kept while he was a child, four sermons by Chauncey Whittelsey, and a "memoranda" written by a Mrs. Pearce after the death of her husband, on a piece of paper joined to itself, which may have been worn as an armband (box 24, folder 1376). There are also fourteen sermons and other writings by unidentified authors.

Series V, Edwards Family Correspondence (1715-1908) is organized into four subseries: Jonathan Edwards (1745-1801), Jonathan Walter Edwards, Hannah Edwards Wetmore, and Other Correspondents. In Jonathan Edwards's correspondence, there are seven folders of letters to his son Jonathan Walter Edwards, and two folders of letters from Calvin Chapin. Principal correspondents of Jonathan Walters Edwards include a Jonathan Edwards (whose letters date from 1814-1819), Moses Tryon, and Mary Edwards Hoyt. Hannah Edwards Wetmore's letters include letters from John Sargeant, a suitor of hers whose presence caused a rift with her betrothed, a Mr. Rockwell. A paper in Series X entitled, "Hard Hearted Hannah" by John De K. Alsop discusses this correspondence (box 37, folder 1669). The Other Correspondents file includes letters to Joseph Bellamy, Samuel Andrew Law, Chauncey Whittelsey, and Lucy Wetmore Whittelsey.

Series VI, Genealogical Notes and Other Family Papers (1696-1891), is housed a single box. Besides the genealogical notes, it includes documents such as wills, indentures, deeds, certificates, a prayer in Mahican (box 29, folder 1596), and a bound volume of manuscript poems and printed illustrations belonging to Lydia Eliza Hollingsworth Kennedy (box 29, folder 1605).

Series VII, Printed Material , is arranged alphabetically by title when known, or type of material; family Bibles and other volumes, however, are listed at the end of the series, as stored. The series includes pamphlets, ephemera removed from (and referenced to) family Bibles, clippings, an array of Bibles and religious works belonging to family members, and a broadside Thanksgiving Proclamation by George Washington in October 1789 (box 38, folder 1682).

Series VIII, Visual Material (1783-1908), contains a box of vintage cabinet cards, daguerreotypes, engravings, silhouettes, and photographic postcards of Edwards family members.

Series IX, Artifacts , includes a scrap of Sarah Pierpont Edwards's wedding dress and a linen bedsheet made by Esther Stoddard Edwards (box 36, folder 1656).

Series X, History of the Papers (1767-1972) is organized into two sections: Correspondence, arranged by correspondent, and Agreements, Inventories, and Related Papers, arranged alphabetically by type. The correspondence consists of letters between descendants of Edwards, and regards the disposition of the papers.

Physical Description

Other Storage Formats: oversize, microfilm

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Jonathan Edwards Collection is the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the Jonathan Edwards Collection came to Yale as a gift of the heirs of Jonathan Edwards in 1900. Additional individual pieces, small groups of his papers, and especially, other family papers, have been added over the years through gift and purchase, chiefly from other Edwards descendants. For further acquisitions information, please consult the appropriate curator.

Associated Materials

The Andover Newton Theological Seminary Collection of Jonathan Edwards (GEN MSS 1542), Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, is a small yet significant collection of Edwards manuscripts, including a large number of family letters, several of Edwards's early "scientific" essays, and Book 6 of the "Miscellanies," containing entries 1067 and 1068, relating to the prophecies of the Messiah.

Though the bulk of Edwards's manuscripts are at Yale, other institutions do possess important pieces. For example, the manuscript of the "Spider Letter" is at the New-York Historical Society. Certain manuscripts, however, are not known to have survived. Among Edwards's autobiographical writings, for example, neither the "Diary" nor the "Personal Narrative" are thought to be extant. Though an index for the notes on "The Mind" has survived, the main text itself has not. For these writings, readers should consult printed editions of Edwards' works.

1696 - 1972
Majority of material found within 1726 - 1758
18 Linear Feet (40 boxes)
Related Names
Edwards, Jonathan, 1703-1758
Language of Materials