Mather, Cotton. Diary and personal documents

Collection History

Please note that as of January 2022, the Cotton Mather diary and personal documents, 1716-circa 1719, and all future digital collections are now hosted on the library's new digital archive.

Rev. Cotton Mather (1663-1728), son of Increase Mather and Maria Cotton, was born February 12, 1663 in the city of Boston in Massachusetts Bay Colony. He attended Boston Latin School and Harvard, graduating in 1678. He was ordained May 13, 1684 at Second Church in Boston, also known as "Old North" Church or "the Church of the Mathers", where he served with his father, Increase (1639 O.S. - 1723 O.S.). Rev. Mather was married three times (first to Abigail Phillips of Charlestown, second to Elizabeth Hubbard, and third to Lydia George) and had 15 children, six of whom lived to adulthood. Cotton was also a prolific author, publishing some 280 distinct items. He is perhaps best remembered today for his endorsement of inoculation as a means of fighting smallpox, and for his persecutory role in the Salem witchcraft trials. Rev. Mather died on February 23, 1728.

The digital collections below include a portion of Rev. Mather's diary entries from 1716, an essay directed at his son Samuel with advice on attending college, and a listing of marriages which Rev. Mather performed, dated 1717.

For additional information please see the finding aid.


Digital Materials

Diary, 1716

This portion of Cotton Mather's diary contains entries starting in February of 1715/1716 (OS/NS) and ends December 1716. Please note: Mather uses dual Julian/Gregorian calendar dating in portions of this diary.

"Directions for a SON going to the Colledge," circa 1718-1719

Mather's "Directions", most likely written after July 1718 but before his son Samuel (1706-1785) entered Harvard in 1719, contains 7 points of advice on how Samuel should conduct himself while at school.

List of Marriages, 1717

This single-page document contains a list of marriages performed in 1717 by Cotton Mather.


Related Materials

Mather Family. Papers, 1648-1651

A Servant of the Lord, Not Ashamed of His Lord : A Short Essay to Fortify the Minds of All Persons, Especially of Young Persons, Against the Discouragements of Piety, Offered in the Derisions of the Impious [PDF] (1704) by Cotton Mather

Pedigree of the Family Mather [PDF] from A Brief History of the War with the Indians in New-England… (1676) by Increase Mather
  Genealogical chart showing nine generations