Plimoth Patuxet Museums and the State Library of Massachusetts Announce Publication of Groundbreaking New Edition of the Bradford Manuscript

In the Press

November 19, 2020

Collaboration makes the handwritten history of Plymouth Colony accessible to general audiences in the 400th commemoration year


Plymouth, Massachusetts (November 17, 2020) – Plimoth Patuxet Museums (formerly Plimoth Plantation) and the State Library of Massachusetts are proud to announce their joint publication of a new facsimile of William Bradford’s Of Plimoth Plantation, commonly known as the Bradford Manuscript. For the first time in printed form since 1896, this volume presents the handwritten history of Plymouth Colony from William Bradford, Mayflower passenger and the Colony’s longest serving governor, in a format accessible to the general public.

Of Plimoth Plantation is considered by many to be one of Massachusetts’ – and indeed the Nation’s – greatest treasures. Since its return to Massachusetts at the end of the 19th century the original has been carefully preserved by the State Library of Massachusetts. The book details the major events in the lives of a small group of religious Separatists, known as the Pilgrims, who set out from England to seek the religious freedom that was not available to them back home. Bradford presents in manuscript format the authoritative account of the Mayflower voyage, relationships with 17th-century Indigenous communities, and the settling of what would become the first permanent European colony in New England, using the Mayflower Compact as its governing document.

“The State Library of Massachusetts works very hard to make primary sources available to as many people as possible. The Bradford Manuscript, which the Library has cared for for over 120 years, is now available to a new audience in a format that is very close to the original,” said Elvernoy Johnson, the Massachusetts State Librarian. “We are grateful to our colleagues at Plimoth Patuxet for helping us achieve that goal in this historically-significant anniversary year.”

Although it appears Bradford never attempted to publish his chronicle, he made it clear that he wanted it preserved and read by future generations. His careful penmanship at times seems to be written personally for the modern viewer. Plimoth Patuxet and the State Library collaborated to present the work the way Bradford wrote it with very few additions or edits, relying on high-resolution digital images of the original manuscript, which were created as part of an extensive preservation project overseen by the State Library and conducted by experts at the Northeast Document Conservation Center.

“As we commemorate the 400th anniversary of the Mayflower passengers’ historic voyage, it is fitting to revisit Bradford’s words in his own hand,” said Ellie Donovan, Executive Director of Plimoth Patuxet Museums. “We are grateful to the State Library, which has been an exemplary partner in making this remarkable project possible.”

The complete collection of Bradford’s pages appears with greater clarity than ever before along with illuminating introductory materials and a detailed index to help the reader navigate this one-of-a-kind document. This new edition’s pages are cut to the same size as the original manuscript allowing the reader to imagine themselves holding the original as they examine Bradford’s own words.

The book, available exclusively through Plimoth Patuxet’s gift shops and at www.plimoth.com, will be launched November 19, 2020 at 7:00 p.m., via a special online event hosted live by Plimoth Patuxet and featuring comments by bestselling author Nathaniel Philbrick. The event is free, but registration is required at https://virtuallaunchofplimothplantation.eventbrite.com. Books will be available for purchase on November 19; however, those wishing to be notified of its availability are welcome to sign up at the link here: www.plimoth.org/OfPlimothPlantation.


All history enthusiasts will find interesting Of Plimoth Plantation’s first-hand account of Plymouth Colony’s founding 400 years ago.

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About Plimoth Patuxet Museums

Through powerful personal experiences of history, Plimoth Patuxet Museums tell the stories of the Wampanoag people and the English colonists who created a new society – in collaboration and in conflict – in the 1600s. Major exhibits include Mayflower II, the historic Patuxet Wampanoag Homesite, the 17th-Century English Village, and the Plimoth Grist Mill. Located less than an hour’s drive south of Boston, and 15 minutes north of Cape Cod, the Museum is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. A private, 501(c)(3) not-for-profit educational institution, the Museum is supported by admission fees, donations, memberships, and revenue from a variety of educational programming, dining and gift shops. Plimoth Patuxet is a Smithsonian Institution Affiliate and receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, private foundations, corporations, and local businesses. For more information, visit www.plimoth.org. Follow the Museum on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and Mayflower on Facebook and Instagram.

About the State Library of Massachusetts

The State Library, located in the Massachusetts State House, supports the research and information needs of government, libraries, and the public through innovative services and access to a comprehensive repository of state documents and other historical items. For more information, visit https://www.mass.gov/orgs/state-library-of-massachusetts.

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