American Beginnings, featuring the Bay Psalm Book


This exhibit explores the early history of our nation through a remarkable selection of maps, texts, and other historical documents from the Rubenstein Library’s collections and the private map collection of Michael Stone, T’84. Of particular note is an extremely rare copy of America’s first book, The Whole Booke of Psalmes (1640), commonly known as the Bay Psalm Book. Written, typeset, and printed in the nascent Massachusetts Bay Colony by the Puritans who left England in search of religious freedom, this small volume testifies to the defiant independence that characterized the Puritan settlers and to the scholarly aspirations present from the very beginnings of our country. From an original edition of 1,700 copies, only eleven survive today. The copy on display was purchased in 2014 by David M. Rubenstein, chair of the Duke University Board of Trustees, and is on exhibit by special arrangement with him.