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Library Summary

Type: Real
Size: Large (501 - 1000)

Robert Keayne

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Library Information
Library date
Library size (titles)
Unknown: several hundred at least
Library size (volumes)
Will: original in Suffolk County, MA Probate Records; published in Bernard Bailyn, ed. "The Apologia of Robert Keayne," Publications of the Colonial Society of Massachusetts, Volume XLII (Transactions, 1952-1956) (1964), pp. 243-341
Library notes
Will: Keayne provided funds (£ 300) for the creation of a "town house," to include a library. He donated to that library:

- "my 3 great writing books which are intended as an exposition or interpretation of the whole Bible"

- "a 4th great writing book in which is an exposition on the prophecy of Daniel, of the Revelation, and the prophecy of Hosea, not long since began."

Keayne allowed his son Benjamin "first choice out of my study of such books as he shall desireand think needful for his own use and reading (not to sell), whether divinity, history, or military, or any of my written sermon books excepting those four before given to the library, and also my wife [having chosen] some few for her use if she shall desire any other than those she hath already of her own - these premised, my will is that my brother Wilson and Mr. Norton, with my executor and overseers or the most of them, may view over the rest of my books and to choose from amongst them such of my divinity books and commentaries and of my written sermon books of any others of them as they shall think profitable and useful for such a library (not simply for show but properly for use), they being all English, none Latin or Greek. Then the rest, both the written and printed ones, which remains may be sold for their due worth. And though my books be not many nor very fit for such a work, being English, and small books, yet after this beginning the Lord may stir up some others that will add more to them and help to carry the work on by books of more value, antiquity, use, and esteem. And [my desire is] that an inventory may be taken and kept of those books that they set apart for the library."

If the town did not use the funds provided for the library, the money and the books were to go to Harvard College.

Later in the will, Keayne gives to his son Benjamin "my little written book in my closet upon 1 Cor. 11, 27, 28, which is a treatise on the sacrament of the Lord's Supper per Mr. Briarly. [It is] a little thin pocket book bound in leather, all written with my own hand, which I esteem more precious than gold, and which I have read over I think 100 and 100 times." He notes that in previous wills he had given his "great writing books" to Benjamin, but "I have considered since that he will be hardly able, nor it may be willing, to take so much pains and ... also that such a work as that, which may be so beneficial and useful to a society of men (except for the end before mentioned) and is more fit for a public than private uses and more useful for scholars than others, should [not] be appropriated to one man only. Considering further that I have given liberty to my son to make choice of some books out of my study and reading, both divinity and history, therefore, I have since thought it would be more useful to give them to some public library, as now I have done. And I would add only this, that when I am dead, upon the perusal of my study there will be found many books both printed and written (which I have read over) that have divers leaves turned down thick in them. They are only such choice places which I intended, and was a part of my constant work while I lived, so far as they concern scripture and exposition, to transcribe into those 4 great paper books before mentioned. ... I have generally done [the same] by all the books that I have and do read, and should be glad if some ingenious young scholar that hath a good, legible hand and a ready and willing mind that delights in writing and reading were requested to carry it on till the work come to be more nearly finished."

Keayne also notes "There is at my farm also many printed books both great and small, divinity, history, military books, that I made use of there, and some written sermon books, both in my closet and chamber there."
Note: After Keayne's death on 23 March 1655/56, these books formed the first "public library" in Boston; almost all (excepting the "4th great writing book") were saved from the fire in 1711 which destroyed the town house, but burned in the 1747 fire. While an inventory of the library was taken in 1702-04, no copy has survived.
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