WOOD, William. New England’s Prospect

London, Tho. Cotes for Iohn Bellamie, 1635.


Second edition. 4to. [viii] 83 [iv], with the foldout map of New England, often lacking. Roman and Italic letter, woodcut initials, head-pieces. Light age browning, title page a little dusty, frayed outer corners, repair to blank inner margin with no loss, occasional ink smudges, especially at sig. F, and last. clean and well margined copy in C17 English calf, covers double-ruled in blind and stamped in each side with fleuret in pyramid formation, spine expertly rebacked.

SECOND EDITION, corrected and enhanced with new information edition absent from the first “Until 1634 there was no single book to which prospective colonists and others could turn for reliable information about England’s latest American venture. […] Wood’s claim to be ‘true, lively, and experimental’ did not mislead. He book was unusually accurate among the swelling literature on British America…” (Alden T. Vaughan, “New England’s Prospect” pp 1 -2). The vivid account of the Massachusetts Bay colony is based on Wood’s experiences there between 1631 and the summer of 1633. Part 1 contains a detailed account of the land, accompanied by a rare foldout map of the region accurate to the extent that it was not updated over the course of the popular works three early editions it is “the earliest to give detailed local treatment of the shore fom ‘Narrogansetts’ Bay to ‘Acomenticus’ on the coast of Maine” (Sabin cit. infr.). Wood describes the lay of the land, the ‘nature of the Soyle’, and supplements his description of edible plants and local wildlife with rhyming couplets, e.g. “Within the Indian Orchard fruites be some,/ The ruddie Cherri, and the jettie Plumbe”. Next Wood describes “severall plantations”, including Boston, Medford, Mystic, and Salem.

Part 2 is more of an ethnographic study of the native tribes of the area, the appearance, costume, custom and religion, concluding with a five page vocabulary of useful words and phrases from the native language. “It has been suggested that Wood may have been assisted in the preparation of the [Indian vocabulary] by Roger Williams, whose own “Key into the Language of America” was published in 1643, and by John Eliot, to whose missionary work among the Indians reference is made on p. 92. (Sabin cit. infr.)

Not much is known about Wood, however as a writer, “Professor Tyler says of this book: ‘His style, indeed, is that of a man of genuine literary culture, and has the tone and flavor of the best Elizabethan prose-writers; almost none of the crabbedness of the sermon-makers and pamphleteers of his own day” (Church cit. infr.).

STC 25958. Alden 635/134. Lowndes vol VII 2986. Sabin vol 29 p. 34 “According to Winsor, his work is the earliest topographical account of the Massachusetts Colony, so far as the settlements then extended.” Church 433. Bell W195 “The first d etailed description of Massachusetts, noting the harbors, towns, soil ,weather and products. The good for which there was a ready market in Massachusetts are noted.”


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