King Charles I is executed in January 1649. On 27 July, the Parliament issues the Act for the Promotion and Propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ in New England. The natives are now regarded as human beings who must be prevented from going astray. The missionaries will be financed by a new English Corporation without the intervention of the colonial administration.
Living in Massachusetts Bay Colony since 1631, John Eliot devoted his entire long life to the evangelization of the Indians. The Massachuset language has nothing in common with English and is not written. Eliot understands that it is illusory to use English to convert the natives. He creates a phonetic transcription of a local Massachuset dialect, the Natick, and endeavors to translate the Geneva Bible.
This work makes Eliot busy for fourteen years. The New Testament is ready in 1661 and the Old Testament two years later. Meanwhile, in the following to the Bay Psalm Book published in Cambridge in 1640, printing gets developed in America. John Eliot's Natick Bible is printed in 1663 on a new press installed in 1659, also in Cambridge.
This Indian Bible is the very first Bible printed in America. It is also, and above all, the only example of a book printed to establish the communication with an illiterate group. The only comparable achievement is the translation of the Bible into Gothic language by Ulfilas 1300 years earlier, long time before printing.
Eliot had been right and the success of his Bible is considerable. In 1674, the Christian population within the Massachuset Indians is estimated at 1,400 people, converted by the Bible translated for their use by Eliot.
This book was published for intensive use and most copies were read to ruin. A clean copy that can only be blamed for some paper discoloration is estimated $ 175K for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 5, lot 140.
SOLD for $ 275K including premium