Plimoth Patuxet Museums (formerly Plimoth Plantation) and the State Library of Massachusetts are proud to announce their joint publication of a new facsimile of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation, commonly known as the Bradford Manuscript. For the first time in printed form since 1896, this volume presents the handwritten history of Plymouth Colony from William Bradford, Mayflower passenger and the Colony’s longest serving governor, in a format accessible to the general public.
Of Plimoth Plantation is considered by many to be one of Massachusetts’ – and indeed the Nation’s – greatest treasures. Since its return to Massachusetts at the end of the 19th century the original has been carefully preserved by the State Library of Massachusetts. The book details the major events in the lives of a small group of religious Separatists, known as the Pilgrims, who set out from England to seek the religious freedom that was not available to them back home. Bradford presents in manuscript format the authoritative account of the Mayflower voyage, relationships with 17th-century Indigenous communities, and the settling of what would become the first permanent European colony in New England, using the Mayflower Compact as its governing document.
“The State Library of Massachusetts works very hard to make primary sources available to as many people as possible. The Bradford Manuscript, which the Library has cared for for over 120 years, is now available to a new audience in a format that is very close to the original,” said Elvernoy Johnson, the Massachusetts State Librarian. “We are grateful to our colleagues at Plimoth Patuxet for helping us achieve that goal in this historically-significant anniversary year.”
Although it appears Bradford never attempted to publish his chronicle, he made it clear that he wanted it preserved and read by future generations. His careful penmanship at times seems to be written personally for the modern viewer. Plimoth Patuxet and the State Library collaborated to present the work the way Bradford wrote it with very few additions or edits, relying on high-resolution digital images of the original manuscript, which were created as part of an extensive preservation project overseen by the State Library and conducted by experts at the Northeast Document Conservation Center.
“As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower passengers’ historic voyage, it is fitting to revisit Bradford’s words in his own hand,” said Ellie Donovan, Executive Director of Plimoth Patuxet Museums. “We are grateful to the State Library, which has been an exemplary partner in making this remarkable project possible.”
The complete collection of Bradford’s pages appears with greater clarity than ever before along with illuminating introductory materials and a detailed index to help the reader navigate this one-of-a-kind document. This new edition’s pages are cut to the same size as the original manuscript allowing the reader to imagine themselves holding the original as they examine Bradford’s own words.
The book, available exclusively through Plimoth Patuxet’s gift shops and at www.plimoth.com, will be launched November 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., via a special online event hosted live by Plimoth Patuxet and featuring comments by bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick. The event is free, but registration is required at https://virtuallaunchofplimothplantation.eventbrite.com. Books will be available for purchase on November 19; however, those wishing to be notified of its availability are welcome to sign up at the link here: www.plimoth.org/OfPlimothPlantation.
All history enthusiasts will find interesting Of Plimoth Plantation’s
first-hand account of Plymouth Colony’s founding 400 years ago.