Boston church to auction 1640 hymnal

Boston church to auction 1640 hymnal

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BOSTON — Congregants of one of the nation's oldest churches have voted to auction off a 372-year-old hymn book that's expect to fetch $10 million to $20 million at auction.

Members of the Old South Church in Boston authorized the sale of one of its two copies of the Bay Psalm Book, which was published in 1640. The hymnal is so old it pre-dates the United States by more than a century. It is known as the first book published in North America that is still in existence. Only 11 copies remain.

Board of Trustees Chairman Phil Stern says the church wants to continue growing its endowment and take care of some "critical capital needs."

He says although there was loud opposition to the sale, the vote wasn't close, with 271 votes cast in favor and 34 against.

About the book
  • Printed in 1640 in Cambridge, Mass., by Stephen Daye, first printer of the Massachusetts Bay Colony
  • Touted as first book printed in what is now the U.S.
  • Official name: The Whole Booke of Psalmes Faithfully Translated into English Metre
  • Represents what was most sacred to the Puritans
Source: Library of Congress

Members said it was a difficult decision, but the right decision to sell a piece of their history so they can continue their work at the church.

"It was a hymn book. It was an everyday book. The Congregationalists would come in and sing their praises to God. It's the psalms of David translated into English in rhyming verse," said Sr. Minister Nancy Taylor of Old South Church.

"It hasn't been used since the 1700s, so it's a museum piece rather than a piece of hymnity today," said Taylor.

Members also authorized the sale of 19 pieces of Colonial-era silver. "The silver we haven't used since 1939," Taylor added.

Contributing: NBC News

(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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