In conjunction with our Founding 56: The Congregational Library’s Original Collection digital exhibition, the CLA is launching its first Adopt-a-Book program. By adopting a text, you support the library’s core activities: to conserve, acquire, digitize, and archive materials that help us preserve and interpret the Congregational story.

The Founding 56 Adopt-a-Book initiative will support the CLA’s annual acquisition program. Hundreds of historic and new printed works and scores of linear feet of manuscript records come into the CLA each year, documenting the 400+ year history of Congregationalism. Our staff works diligently to assess, catalog, and make these materials accessible for students, scholars, church members, and anyone interested in the history of Protestantism in America.

Ten staff-recommended selections are up for adoption, including items donated to create the library in 1853. Early titles include Anthony Benezet’s 1762 A Short Account of . . . Africa and Thomas Weld’s commonplace book from 1723. More recent acquisitions for consideration include the Congregational Centennial Cookbook (1972) from Spencer, Iowa and a volume from the new scholarly edition of Cotton Mather's magisterial Biblia Americana.

To celebrate your adoption, donors will be recognized with:

  • an acknowledgment in the item record in our online catalog;

  • an adoption certificate detailing the item's provenance and history; and

  • a physical bookplate added to your selected item.

Adopt-a-Book is also a wonderful way to honor someone special to you. When completing your adoption form, simply identify the person in whose name the item will be adopted and we will make sure their name will appear on all documentation.


Scroll down to view the materials up for adoption. Once you've made a selection, click on the item to complete an adoption form. A staff member will be in touch soon after you submit your information to walk you through the payment process and finalize your adoption.

Questions? Contact Director of Development, Heather Kurtz at


A Choice Drop of Honey (Boston, 1803) 
Thomas Wilcocks


A popular religious guide republished in North America. Thomas Wilcocks warned his readers to be wary of passing ideologies and contemporaneous ideas, and instead always trust in the Lord. First published in 1690, new editions are still being published today!

Part of the Founding 56: The Congregational Library’s Original Library Collection

A Funeral Sermon on the Death of Mrs. Hannah Williams (Boston, 1746)  
William Williams


Published funeral sermons about women in early New England, like this one for Hannah Stoddard Williams (1687-1745), are much rarer than those about men. William Williams (1688-1760), minister of the First Congregational Church in Weston, Massachusetts, praised his wife Hannah for being “faithful, kind, and self-denying.” The sermon preserved her legacy, if not her voice, and was intended to set an example of virtuous behavior to other women.

Part of the Founding 56: The Congregational Library’s Original Library Collection

Account of Africa and Slave Trade (Philadelphia, 1762) 
Anthony Benezet


An early influential antislavery work. Inspired by the Black students he taught, Quaker schoolmaster Anthony Benezet published a widely-read account of West African societies as a means to rebut racist myths about Africans and expose the brutalities of the slave trade. Inclusion of an early edition of Benezet’s landmark work in the original Congregational Library collection speaks to the founders’ deep involvement in the antislavery movement.

Part of the Founding 56: The Congregational Library’s Original Library Collection

America’s First Bible Commentary (Tübingen, 2016) 
Cotton Mather


A new edition of a classic work by Cotton Mather. The fifth volume of Mather’s magnum opus, Biblia Americana, is, as he promised, an invaluable source of information. Containing commentaries on the major prophets, Isaiah and Jeremiah, as well as on the Wisdom Books, readers will be delighted and amazed by his amassment of “golden treasures fetched . . . out of the histories of all ages.” Expertly co-edited by longtime New England’s Hidden Histories Transcription Director Helen Gelinas.

Commonplace Book (Boston, 1723) 
Thomas Weld


The Congregational Library’s first manuscript acquisition. Thomas Weld kept this commonplace book while he was a student at Harvard College in 1723. Weld filled the pages with notes on various religious topics, which he might have drawn on later in life as a minister in Upton and Middleborough, Massachusetts. Another Harvard graduate, John Wingate Thornton, donated the commonplace book to the CLA in 1853.

Part of the Founding 56: The Congregational Library’s Original Library Collection

Congregational Centennial Cookbook (Iowa Falls, 1972) 
First Congregational Church of Spencer


Congregational Christian churches published scores of cookbooks in the twentieth century. This celebratory cookbook from Spencer, Iowa, was dedicated to the women who had served their church for 100 years. In addition to several hundred recipes, the cookbook includes home remedies and humorous poems on family matters. Written by women, it was also published by a women-owned company dedicated to printing cookbooks for churches and other organizations at affordable rates.

Constitution of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Christian Conference (New Bedford, 1845) 
Rhode Island and Massachusetts Christian Conference


A rare early institutional document from the Christian Connexion. The Christians held several Massachusetts conventions that included Rhode Island churches in the early nineteenth century, but the first Rhode Island and Massachusetts Christian Conference was organized in 1835 and began admitting churches in 1840. They adopted their first constitution the following year and endorsed this revised constitution in 1845.

Hawai'i Missionary Questionnaire (circa 1830) 
American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM)


What would you ask a couple who wanted to be sent on a foreign mission in the nineteenth century? These questionnaires, developed by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, were presented to new missionaries interested in going to Hawai’i. There are separate questions for men and women, but interestingly, the number of questions for women is fewer than for men!

Moguntiacarum Rerum (1604) 
Nikolaus Serarius


Historic books can be beautiful objects in their own right. This 1604 Dutch volume documents the history of Mainz, Germany up to the contemporary reign of Archbishop-Elector Johann Schweikhard von Kronberg, a relatively moderate counter-Reformation priest who compromised with Protestants. The beautiful manuscript waste binding reminds us that clean parchment was expensive and needed for new works, so it was common to reuse discarded manuscripts in bookbinding.

Notebook about Organ Purchase (Boston, 1879) 
Central Congregational Church


Music for the masses. Early Boston Puritans refused musical accompaniment for their worship service, but their nineteenth century descendants expected it. This rare survival from documents the Central Congregational Society's 1879 effort to raise $6,000 dollars to purchase an organ, reorder the pews and pulpit for better sound quality, and install new carpet. Each donor is proudly listed with contributions ranging from $1 to $500.

All Founding 56 Adopt-a-Book donations are tax-deductible. Donors will receive a formal gift acknowledgment with tax receipt information.

For additional information, please contact Heather Kurtz, Director of Development, at or 617-523-0470 ext. 230.