I was very interested to read Colleen Connolly’s essay in the Smithsonian Magazine online about the book that is widely considered the first banned book in North America: “How America’s First Banned Book Survived and Became and Anti-Authoritarian Icon.”
The book in question is Thomas Morton’s New English Canaan or New Canaan, published in Amsterdam in 1637, and I was pleased to discover that the Bell Library has a copy – one of about 25 copies that have survived.
Morton’s negative critique of the Puritan colony ended with his book being indicted by the authorities there and burned. However, as Connelly notes: “Sarah Rivett, a literary scholar at Princeton University who has occasionally taught the book in her classes, says it’s hard to draw a direct line from the banning of New English Canaan to modern book bans due to differing cultural contexts.” I definitely agree, and that’s why I’m posting this after the official “banned books” week.
Nevertheless, quite apart from the status of New English Canaan in the banned books canon, Morton was a colorful character whose story gives depth to common perceptions of early Colonial American history, and Connelly’s essay is well worth the read.