Asbury’s Journal – First Volume of the 1792 First Edition

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Asbury, Francis. An Extract from the Journal of Francis Asbury, Bishop of the Methodist-Episcopal Church in America, From August 7, 1771, to December 29, 1778. Vol. 1. Philadelphia: Printed by Joseph Crukshank, no. 87, High-Street: sold by John Dickins, no. 182, in Race-Street, near Sixth-Street, 1792.

Evans 24060

First Edition. Binding: Hardcover (Full Leather). Book Condition: Very Good Condition. Item Type: Book.

Pagination: 3 leaves (Title with blank verso; Advertisement with blank verso; To the Reader (p. [1]) with blank verso), [3]-356 p. Size: 6"-7" - Sextodecimo (16mo).

First volume of Asbury’s journal, which provides a first-person account of Methodism's beginning years in America. Although Evans provides a note that this was the only volume published, he perhaps means the only volume at that time. A second volume was published in 1802 containing his journal entries for January 1, 1779 to September 3, 1780 (Sabin 2162; see note at Howes A346). The full journal to 1815 (Asbury died in 1816) was not published until 1821.

Asbury began publishing his journal in the first two issues of Arminian Magazine. His the initial advertisement at the front of the book, he notes that “it was first intended that this Journal should have been continued in the Arminian Magazine,” but since “the sale of that is so slow as to render its publication very irregular and precarious; it is therefore thought most adviseable to publish this Journal separately, one volume at a time” (p. [i]). In the advertisement Asbury apologizes for the fact that “about 70 pages” had been printed previously in the magazine. “But as it would be incomplete without taking in the small part which was printed in the Magazine,” he writes, “we hope the purchasers of the Magazine will not be offended at our reprinting that small part in this volume.”

Asbury was evidently not completely pleased with this transcription. In his advertisement for the second volume (as reprinted in the first volume of the 1821 edition), Asbury says this volume was published “under the management of others, it being out of my power to attend the press or even to read over the copy before it was printed” (1821 ed., pp. iii-iv). Francis Hollingsworth, in his editor’s note for the 1821 edition, says of the entries up to 1780, “the original manuscript of all that preceded that date, I never saw : I only know that when printed it did not please the author” (p. vii).

The significance of this volume is explained in Frederick E. Maser’s “Discovery” column published in Methodist History in October 1970. He points out that when Elmer T. Clark put together The Journal and Letters of Francis Asbury (published in 1958) Clark wrote that he was aware of a copy of the 1792 book held by the Library of Congress, but that he made no use of it (Maser, 1970, p. 53).  “By failing to consult the 1792 edition,” Maser writes, Clark and his staff “missed both the ‘Advertisement” and the address ‘To the Reader’ at the beginning of the 1792 Journal” (p. 54).

In point IV of the address, Asbury recognizes the importance of the record he created, expressing the hope a “brief history of Methodism in America, may be communicated through this medium” (p. [1]). He expands on that point in his advertisement for the second volume. “And as I have been (under God and my brethren) the principal overseer of the work in America, and have constantly travelled from the centre to the circumference of the connexion, I flatter myself that reasonable men will acknowledge that I have always had an opportunity of obtaining better information relative to the true state of the whole work than any other man could possibly have. Would it not then be highly injudicious to prefer a history of Methodism, written by men of small and contracted information, (and apostates from its principles) to such a history of its progress as will be presented to the public in my journals?” (1821 Ed., pp. iv-v).

Maser identified copies held the library of the Commission on Archives and History, St. George’s in Philadelphia, the Lovely Lane Museum in Baltimore and Southern Methodist University in Dallas, as well as a personal copy in his collection. In a January 1971 follow-up he adds copies held by The Upper Room in Nasvhille, Garrett Theological Seminary and Emory University. WorldCat shows 22 libraries under two OCLC numbers (6822105 and 207971716) that appear to hold physical copies.

Bound in polished calf over boards. Corners are turned. The corners of the back cover have worn through to the board. Five compartments on the spine with a red morocco label. The title (Asbury's | Journal) is embossed on the label and the volume number (I) is embossed on the spine, but any gilt has perished. The spine has loss in the top 3/8" at the head and a 5/8" crack at the foot. The front hinge has wear. The rear hinge has a 4 1/2" crack with about 1 1/4" showing an early repair with red stitching. The end paper is split and hinge is broken, but holding. The rear hinge is in similar shape, although the top 1 1/2" of the end paper is holding. Some of the paper on the inside rear cover has perished, exposing the leather and some of the board.

The text block is tight. The paper has darkened from age. There is a tide mark affecting the first six leaves, which has produced from heavy foxing on the "To the Reader" page and first leaf of the text. There is also a tide mark from p. 349 to the rear end paper. In between the text block is generally clean with some light foxing.

The recto of the front free end paper has the birth dates for eight members of the Simmons family (from 1792 to 1811) and the verso adds one more entry from 1811. There are miscellaneous early marks in ink and pen on the inside front cover. "William Semans" has added some doggerel on the verso of the rear free end paper (with the book turned upside down), including the date June 19th 1818. Page edges are browned. 

Shipped Weight: 0 lbs 10 oz.

Inventory No: 1261.