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What You Need to Know About the Bay Psalm Book
Monica Brady-Myerov / WBUR
What You Need to Know About the Bay Psalm Book

1. It's for sale.

The main thing you need to know right now about the Bay Psalm Book is that a copy of it is up for public sale for the first time since 1947.

Last week, Boston's Old South Church voted 271-34 to sell one of its two remaining copies of the 1640 Bay Psalm Book—one of the most historic volumes in American religious history. When it goes up for auction, Sotheby's vice chairman David Redden told The Boston Globe, it's likely to fetch between $10 million and $20 million. (The historic and liberal United Church of Christ congregation is also selling 19 pieces of early American communion silver.)

The church says its building needs at least $7 million in repairs, and its endowment needs to grow to support at least $300,000 in annual repairs after that. "We will take this wonderful old hymn book, from which our ancestors literally sang their praises to God, and convert it into doing God's ministry in the world today," Nancy Taylor, the church's senior minister, said in a press release.

The sale was not without controversy. Church historian Jeff Makholm disputed Taylor's characterization of the sale. "We're not helping the people in the community by air conditioning offices," he told WBUR. "It is right for the members to question whether that has anything necessarily to do with the mission of the church. But these books do have something to do with the mission of the church."

2. It's widely regarded as the first book published in America.

In 1638, a mere 18 years after the pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the John set sail for the Massachusetts Bay Colony with Joseph Glover, his wife Elizabeth, their five children, and his wood and iron ...

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What You Need to Know About the Bay Psalm Book
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December 2012

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