The Millennium “shortly to Commence” – Amos Doolittle Plate

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Austin, David; Joseph Bellamy; Jonathan Edwards.  The Millennium; or, the Thousand Years of Prosperity, promised to the Church of God, in the Old Testament and in the New, shortly to Commence, and to be carried on to Perfection, under the auspices of Him, who in the Vision, was presented to St. John. Elizabeth Town (N.J.): Printed by Shepard Kollock, 1794.

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

Pagination: 1 leaf with frontispiece portrait (engraving) of Edwards on the verso, 1 leaf with Title on recto and blank on verso (pp. [i]-[ii]), p. [iii]-viii (Preface), cancelled stub for 1 leaf, [ix]-[xii] (Contents with Erratum at end), [9]-49 (Bellamy), [50] (blank page), [li]-[lii] (Title page for Edwards, blank on verso), [liii]-[lxi] (preface for Edwards), [lxii] (repeats title page in a different style), [63]-321 (Edwards), [322] (blank verso), [323-326] (Title for Austin, blank on verso; Apology, blank on verso), [327]-426 (Austin), [427] (Publisher’s advertisement), 1 blank leaf. Size: 8"-9" - Octavo (8vo).

First (and only) edition of a collection of three works on the Millennium, apparently put together by David Austin, the minister of the First Presbyterian Church at Elizabeth Town. In this collection he uses the interpretations of biblical prophecies of Joseph Bellamy and Jonathan Edwards to prepare his readers for his updated interpretation based upon the events unfolding in the French Revolution. He agrees with the standard Protestant interpretation of Revelation that the Roman Catholic Church is the spiritual Babylon of the last days, but now adds the persecution of the Church in France as the beginning of the final judgment against it and that America, with its commitment to religious liberty, will be the instrument to smash Babylon and usher in the thousand-year reign of Christ on the earth.

The frontispiece portrait of “Jonathan Edwards | President” is signed: “Engraved by Amos Doolittle. N. Haven.” Doolittle, considered one of America’s most important early engravers, based his engraving on a portrait painted by Joseph Badger. A copy of the engraving is in the collection of the National Portrait Gallery (Object number NPG.76.21).

The main title page serves as the title page for the whole volume. No author is provided. The next leaf begins Austin’s signed preface to Bellamy’s sermon, dated May 1, 1794. The sermon was extracted from a collection of three originally published in Boston in 1758. There is no separate title page for Bellamy (just as there is none for his sermon simply headed “The Millennium” in the original publication).

The second work is Jonathan Edwards “An humble attempt to promote explicit agreement and visible union of God's people in extraordinary prayer, for the revival of religion and the advancement of Christ's kingdom on earth, pursuant to Scripture-promises and prophecies concerning the last time.” It reprints a 1789 edition of the 1747 original. Although it has a separate title page, the pagination is continuous.

The purpose of these 18th century Puritan authorities is to set up the third work, an expansion of a sermon by Austin who brings the interpretation of the apocalyptic prophecies up to current affairs, as suggested by the title: “The Downfall of Mystical Babylon; Or A Key to the Providence of God, in the Political Operations of 1793-4,” a reference to the French Revolution. Austin saw in the actions of the revolutionaries the beginning of the punishment of spiritual Babylon (the Papacy) that will bring about its downfall. That Austin is drawing on current events is evidenced by a note in which he writes that his interpretation is “so far new (although already two years in manuscript) that the Editor could not, until within a few days, warrant himself in preaching, or in publishing the sentiment” (p. 350).

He tells his reader that although they might “call the instruments of this successful attack upon Rome a lawless banditti—a race of infidels—men, who profess to ‘know no God but Liberty, and no Gospel but their Constitution.’” But what of it? After all, he reminds them, “even wicked men and devils, in the fullness of their rage, are yet under the divine control” (pp. 382-3).

Turning to America’s role in the last days, Austin sees it as the stone that becomes a mountain in Daniel’s interpretation of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. At this point he drops his veiled language to speak plainly: “the kingdom of the mountain, [began] on the Fourth of July, 1776, when the birth of the MAN-CHILD—the hero of civil and religious liberty took place in these United States” (p. 392). It is “this hero of America” that will end the tyranny, “wielding the standard of civil and religious liberty” to “prepare an high way for the Lord!” (pp. 392-3). He predicts Babylon will fall by 20 years from the start of the French Revolution, in 1810 (p. 368), a date he outlived by 21 years.

Bound in leather, though I can't describe it because this copy is unique in that an early owner covered the book in a deerskin dust jacket, which is finely stitched at the corners and held in place by threads tying the upper and lower sections together. The deerskin on the covers is soft, though the lower part of the spine has dried out more, so it has more the feel of rough vellum. The front and rear endpapers are cracked at the hinges, but the binding is holding.

The text block is tight. The pages have darked along the edges and have some spotting and darkness, mainly in the margins. The title page is grubby along the outside edge from handling. There is a long, thin tide mark in the outside margin on pp. 73-114. The paper is mixed. Most of the pages are thick, but there are a few pages that are on thinner stock with a clear laid pattern. The leaf for pages 315-16 has a 3” tear from the bottom corner at the gutter diagonally up the page. The rear free end paper is largely torn at the gutter with only about 2 1/4" holding at the top. The page edges are browned and the side page edges have a large darkened area where the book appears to have gotten wet in the past. 

A previous owner has added the insertion on page 344 called for by the Erratum on p. [xii]. The original owner, James Clark, has written his name on the recto of the front blank leaf, inscribing the date 25th February 1796 and “Cost 10/6.” He has also written his name and town (Union Town) on either side of the centered words of lines one and three of the main title page. Another Clark has written his name on a blank leaf at the end (with the book upside down): “John Clark's his Book.” A third owner has written four lines of doggerel on the front blank leaf (below James Clark’s information) and signed and dated it, “John Morrison | 4th Aug.t 1808.”

Shipped Weight: 1 lb 3 oz.

Inventory No: 1263.