Founding 56

The Congregational Library’s Original Collection

In 1853, a donation of 56 print and manuscript works from seven donors became the foundational collection for the newly established Congregational Library. Though the collection now numbers nearly a quarter-million items, the themes found within those initial volumes have had a significant impact on the library’s development.

As an artifact, the CLA’s original collection speaks to the goals, ambitions, and hopes that motivated those early donors to establish a library for ministers in nineteenth-century Boston. When considered together, these 56 works reveal a wide range of themes and topics that Congregationalists continue to wrestle with today, such as activism, sermon writing, theology, the foundational roles of Cotton and Increase Mather, and the intersection of politics and religion.

Founding 56 speaks to both the relevance of the big ideas in this small selection of works at the time of their donation, and to how they have shaped understandings of the Congregational story over the past 170 years.