The Eliot Tracts

Commonly referred to as the Eliot Tracts or Eliot’s Indian Library, the early Massachusetts Bay Colony missionary reports of John Eliot, Thomas Mayhew, and Thomas Shepard (among others) represent a critical period in the development of colonialist/Indigenous relationships, capturing what book historian D.F. Mckenzie describes as “the contact between the representatives of a literate European culture and those of a wholly oral indigenous one.” While the works are in English, and all are London imprints, these texts record Indigenous names, places, and phrases, and they represent an important source for the study of the emerging Indigenous print culture. As seen on the opening page of the first tract, New England's First Fruits (1643), language acquisition was from the outset of primary concern:

[T]he difficulty of their Language to us, and of ours to them; there being no Rules to learne either by. Thirdly, the diversity of their owne Language to it selfe; every part of that Country having its own Dialect, differing much from the other.

With the Scheide Library donation, PUL is one of the few institutions that has first printings of all eleven tracts that constitute the “Indian Library.” In addition, the Scheide Library houses several key works documenting the foundations of New England missionary work and related Indigenous language explorations, such as the 1649 Act for the Promoting and Propagating the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England and one of the earliest printed Indigenous language manuals, Roger Williams’s Key into the Language of America (1643).

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