Collections of Distinction

Colonial and Revolutionary Boston

Location: Rare Books Department


Depicts the massacre of patriots by British troops. Boston Public Library holds thousands of manuscripts, correspondence, documents, and printed records from the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods. This collection is unparalleled in the extent of its administrative and judicial records of Massachusetts Bay Colony and early Boston.

The collection documents the founding of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as well as the ensuing political, social, and financial crises that led to the American Revolution and the formation of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The events leading up to the Revolutionary War, as well as the war itself, are well-documented in both print materials and manuscripts written by George Washington, John Hancock, John and Samuel Adams, James Otis, and other important Patriots.

One of the most important and earliest colonial records in the collection is the True Copie of the Court Booke of the Governor and Society of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (1628–1645). Formerly owned by Gov. Thomas Hutchinson, it is a contemporary transcription made as the Colonial laws were being enacted and documents the activities of the Massachusetts Bay Colony from its establishment in England to setting sail to North America in 1628 and settling the colony.

Also represented are thousands of American Revolutionary War manuscripts relating to the Battle of Bunker Hill, casualties of the battles of Lexington and Concord, and George Washington’s original orders for the defense of Boston. Additionally, the Thomas Prince Collection, which has been on deposit at Boston Public Library from Old South Church since 1866, is rich in printed and manuscript materials relating to the history of New England prior to 1758.

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