Thursday, March 12, 2015

A Wonderful Discovery

The enjoyment of a book is a wonderful thing in itself.  Beyond that, however, are the paths that lead away from every book you read.  If it is a book of fiction, it may lead to more books by that author or books from the same literary period or novels dealing with the same subject.  Fiction often leads me to nonfiction, exploring the setting or the event depicted in the novel.  Nonfiction often mentions other titles on the same subject.  The paths are endless, which explains why I can never catch up with all of the books I want to read!

Cruden's Concordance at Stafford Museum
Reading Isaac's journal also took me on many paths, researching people, places, and historic events.  Because Isaac was a reader and a book collector, he introduced me to many books and authors.  One of those books was Cruden's Concordance.  Isaac's penmanship was quite neat, ( See "Isaac's Penmanship," 5-2-2012 in blog archives), but because he was writing more for himself than for a stranger reading his journal more than a century later, not every word was legible.  Names especially gave me trouble, and I did not transcribe Cruden's Concordance accurately.  I did learn that the definition of "concordance" is "an alphabetical index of the principle words in a book," but I did not identify Cruden's name correctly.  From the context of the journal I understood that the book had something to do with the Bible, but it took me some time to appreciate what an incredible book Isaac had in his library.

Isaac was an autodidact (See "Isaac, the Autodidact," 11-13-2014 in blog archives), and he collected books from many fields of study.  (See "Isaac's Library," 2-2-2012 in blog archives.)  He wanted to do his own research rather than relying on the representations of those who might not be reliable scholars.  It is not surprising, then, that Cruden's Concordance to the Bible was one of the books in his library.
Cruden's Title Page

Some of the comments Isaac wrote in his journal about ministers and preachers were very critical and might be misunderstood as criticisms of religion; however, his own study of the Bible would indicate otherwise.  Isaac had little respect for anyone who did not study to become informed before speaking on a subject or whose elocution lacked the substance and style to keep listeners interested, and he made no exception for men of God in those regards.  It was to be expected that Isaac would have studied Cruden's Concordance and would have kept it close at hand as he read his Bible.

Without Isaac I might never have known about the Concordance and its author, Alexander Cruden. The Authorized King James Version of the Bible has about 774,746 words.  Cruden's Concordance has about 2,370,000 words!  Cruden not only indexes each word in the Bible but also provides some definitions.

Index for Anger
In 2004 author Julia Keay published a sort of mystery/biography of Alexander Cruden (1699-1770).  Relying on documents and the smallest of clues, she pieced together both the tragic and the triumphant life of the author of the Concordance.  Imagine Cruden's achievement, in a time before copy machines and computers, not only searching the Bible for words to index but also writing his findings down and organizing them.  Some suggest he used note cards; others believe he used long pieces of paper.  Whatever he did, it must have required painstaking research and countless copying again and again to complete the indexes.
Flyleaf  of copy in Stafford Museum

"[N]ouns such as honey (for which there are thirty-five references and an explanation of what honey is and where it comes from) or wine (for which there are ninety-four direct references, separate entries for wine-bibber, wine-bottle, wine-cellars, wine-fat, wine-press, wine-presses, and wines, as well as a long discussion on the origins, properties and Biblical significance of the useful and agreeable liquor offer examples of Cruden's monumental achievement."  (Quoted from Alexander the Corrector, The Tormented Genius Whose Cruden's Concordance Unwrote the Bible, by Julia Keay, Overlook Press, 2004)  Anyone seriously interested in Bible study would have wanted to own Cruden's index, and in the more than 250 years since its first publication there have been "Useful, Popular, Handy, Portable, Compact, Students, and Cleartype editions," as well as Complete editions, but it has never during that time been out of print!

Julia Keay's book
Therefore, perhaps I should not have been surprised to learn that the Stafford County Historical Museum has an early edition of  Cruden's Concordance in their library collection!  The flyleaf from the copy in the Stafford  Museum indicates purchase in Philadelphia in 1887.  Isaac's copy would have been an even older edition, for he documented the date of purchase in his journal on January 2, 1871 with a letter of reply from Schribner's:  "We can supply Youngman's Cruden's Concordance, 1 Vol. for $3.75 or by mail for $4.12." 
Visiting the museum to examine and photograph their volume, I mentioned what I was doing to a friend at the museum.  She replied, "I have my mother's father's copy of that book."  It would be interesting to learn if there are other copies of this book owned by followers of my blog.  If you have a copy, please leave a comment sharing the edition you own and how the book came into your hands.  It will make an interesting survey if followers of the blog share their stories.  Someone might even discover the signature of Isaac B. Werner on the flyleaf of their copy, if their ancestor bought it at Isaac's estate sale!

(By the way, the method for proving you are not a computer when you leave a comment has been changed, so for those of you who gave up on leaving comments because you could not decipher the 'mutilated' letters, please try again.  I believe you will find the new method easier to do.)

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