• MA Colony Records Copied, Preserved By Free-Soiler, David Pulsifer, Who Observed War Of 1812, Monroe's Visit To New England In Manuscript And Printed Documents

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    DAVID PULSIFER (September 22, 1802 – August 9, 1894) was born in Ipswich, MA. He was an important New England historian who was responsible for copying and helping to preserve the early records of Plymouth Colony from 1620 to 1686, among many others. Pulsifer became familiar with seventeenth century writing and gained a high reputation for reading and transcribing it. He copied the first volume of the Massachusetts Colony Records for the American Antiquarian Society. At the time, transcribing and copying work done by Pulsifer was considered a significant and respected manner of recording and preserving history.  Pulsifer offers, “I wrote with pen that I made of goose quills by adding part of a quill to the pen...filling my pen once with ink thus saving the Commonwealth a great deal of time.”

    Pulsifer worked in a number of public and private offices, including the Secretary of State as the librarian for the antiquarian society from 1849 to 1851 and recording secretary.  Of his work, Samuel F. Haven wrote that Pulsifer “unites the qualities of an expert in chirography [handwriting] with a genuine antiquarian taste and much familiarity with ancient records.”

    Offering a late 19th century journal, 8 1/4 x 10, housed in marble binding, of a biographical sketch of Pulsifer’s life, written by John W. Dean with information provided by Pulsifer.  The journal includes pamphlets on Pulsifer’s life and work with Pulsifer’s edits, as well as manuscript letters, some from Pulsifer. Approximately 60 pages, a beautifully written record of Pulsifer’s work and life with some intricate detail about human dynamics in the offices he worked, including attempts not to pay him and to get him fired. At one point, Pulsifer challenged his public employers in court to secure payment for extra work. Union Gen. Nathaniel P. Banks supported his claim with hopes that “his claim will be allowed.”

    Interlaced with specifics about his work and history of the day (War of 1812, the impressment of American soldiers by the British), Pulsifer includes autobiographical information.  He refers to many people he worked with including Albert L. Fernald, a Free-Soiler who had told me he did not expect to be in the office much longer.  Pulsifer refers to himself as a “Free-soiler, a Whig.”

    “When President James Monroe visited New England, I stood with my school mates in honor of the President, while he rode slowly by us with his hat in his hand.  Previous to this was the War of 1812 when I remember, while in school reading in the Essex Register, that there were 3507 impressed American seamen in the British Navy and it appeared to be a cause of war. The Federalists and Republicans or Democrats were then in full life and vigor, and I remember reading in a newspaper ‘Their pockets stuff’d with libel sheets Old England’s cause to aid.’ This, of course, referred to the Federalists.

    “When I was 15 years of age, I went to Salem to learn the art of bookbinding of Mr. Isaac Cushing. While there Benjamin R. Nichols brought all the original records of Plymouth County from 1620 to 1686 and had them interleaved and newly bound. He also brought the copies that he had made and Hazard’s Historical Collections containing the Acts of the Commissioners of the United Colonies. I made copies of the Plymouth Charter, Miles Standish’s Will and Inventory and some Quaker ‘Railing Papers.’ Rev. William Bentley came to the bindery occasionally and would bring a book and stay until it was done...He died suddenly...The Meeting House was crowded. President Kirkland of Harvard College was in the Pulpit and after the sermon made a short speech...

    “Before I was twenty-one...Ichabod Tucker, Esq. Clerk of the court in the County of Essex took me into his office where I remained about eight years and made up sixteen books of records of the Supreme Judicial Court and Court of Common Pleas...

    “I heard Mr. Webster’s argument, which is printed, in the trial of John Francis Knap...

    “Leaving the Clerk’s office...I was employed several years in the Registry of Deeds. While there, in 1839, I met, at the Essex Coffee House, where I was boarding for a few months, with Col. John Trumbull, who was aid to Gen. Washington when he came to Cambridge in 1775. Col. T said he was descended from the elder John Robinson but some one, in a book recently published, had expressed doubts...

    “I was employed in the office of the Clerk of Courts and Registry of Deeds in the county of Middlesex and transcribed several of the ancient books and about that time, I spent a month or two in examining and placing in order some ancient papers...and found....original manuscripts known as ‘Phinehas Pratt’s Narrative,’ which I intended to have printed...but before I had brought it about the Massachusetts Historical Society got possession of it and had it printed in their collections...While engaged in copying the Norfolk Records in June 1853, I was requested by Hon. Ephraim M. Wright, Secretary of the Commonwealth, to...copy the Ancient Records of the Colony of Massachusetts...”

    The journal includes geneaological records and a number of pamphlets including one called “Crispus Attucks,” an American whaler, sailor and former slave of African and Native American descent, generally regarded as the first person killed in the Boston Massacre.  The pamphlet’s content argues for a monument to be erected in honor of Attucks.

    Light, expected scuffing to the boards. Else in excellent condition and very readable.


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