A New Light on Cotton Mather

This February marks the 360th birthday of Boston minister Cotton Mather, as well as the 295th anniversary of his death. A major spiritual and intellectual figure in early New England, Mather played an active role in colonial politics, the Salem witchcraft trials, and wrote one of the earliest and most influential histories of New England. The Congregational Library, which has one of the nation’s most important collections of Mather’s works, held a one-hour virtual program on February 8, 2023 to celebrate the publication of A Cotton Mather Reader. Click here for the 57-minute video of the presentation.

(Above) Reiner Smolinski and Kenneth Minkema discuss new perspectives on the life and legacy of Mather with Dr. Tricia Peone, Project Director of New England’s Hidden Histories. Smolinski and Minkema are editors of A Cotton Mather Reader, an authoritative selection of the writings of one of the most important early American writers.

Mather has a wide presence in American culture, and longtime scholarly interest in him is increasing as more of his previously unpublished writings are made available. A Cotton Mather Reader serves as an introduction to the man and to his huge body of published and unpublished works. (Above, right) A copy of An Abridgment of the Life of the Late Reverend and Learned Dr. Cotton Mather has been sold.

The fire-and-brimstone preaching style of Cotton Mather is captured in the above, left image from the poster for “Safe in Hell”, Amy Freed’s 2005 comedy about the Salem witch trials at the Yale Repertory Theatre. Cotton’s writing are collected in Biblia Americana.