Richard Russell, sermon notebook cover (American Antiquarian Society)


Both the size and the binding of Richard Russell’s sermon notebook are unusual for 17th-century New England. The book is significantly larger than most extant sermon notebook, and it is bound in limp vellum.

You can still see the remnant of a vellum tie that was used to keep the book closed. Ties and clasps on early books protected NOT the written text from prying eyes but rather the material of the book itself. Keeping the tightly closed protected the leaves inside from vermin that would have found the organic material in the paper delicious. The leaves of a tightly closed book were less like to expand and contract with changes in heat and humidity, and so the spine of the book was protected as well.

Sermon notebooks often survive because they are passed down in families. A later owner inscribed Russell’s notebook in 1774 “Thomas Abbot / Ejus Liber” (Latin for “Thomas Abbot His Book,” an early possessive form that preceded the modern form “Thomas Abbot’s book”).

Courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

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