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What a Library Means to a Church: Congregational Philanthropy & Print Culture
Jonathan Beecher Field
Thursday, February 29, 2024
1-2 pm EST


The history of print culture in Boston and the history of Congregationalism are deeply intertwined. Like a famous university across the river, the Congregational Library & Archives is an institution that began with a gift of books. While Harvard honors a single donor with the name of their institution, the Congregational Library & Archives owes its beginnings to the largesse of several prominent Bostonians. At a time when both philanthropy and which books are included in which libraries mattered, it can be instructive to consider how the forces of print culture and philanthropy fostered a Boston institution.  

The fact that two-thirds of the books in the original Congregational Library were printed in Boston likely does not come as a surprise. Not only was Boston a center for Puritan (and later Congregational) spiritual and intellectual activity, but also the city’s printing shops dominated the information landscape of British North America over the first 150 years after the establishment of the first press. Learn more about the early history of printing in Boston with a leading scholar of early Boston printing, Jonathan Beecher Field.

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Jonathan Beecher Field is Associate Professor of American Literature at Clemson University. He was born in New England and educated in the Midwest. His first book, Errands into the Metropolis (UPNE, 2009), concerned strategies of dissent employed by religious dissidents in seventeenth-century New England. His second book, Town Hall Meetings and the Death of Deliberation  (Minnesota, 2019), considers how simulacra of deliberative processes allow politicians, corporations, and university to contain and silence dissent. He is currently working on a book project considering material bases of settler innocence.