A Book by Mr. Pemberton

Along with the table, barrel, pails, kettles, and spoons, John Vargason’s will (see post of May 22, 2013) shows that he owned two books, the Bible and a “book by Mr. Pemberton.”  Just as one might peruse the bookshelf of a friend to learn about his/her interests, I have been curious about the Pemberton book to learn a bit about John Vargason.

There were several books at the time written by people with the last name of Pemberton.  Israel Pemberton, a Quaker, espoused pacifist views and was opposed to fighting Britain in the Revolutionary War.  (I expect that this was not John’s view, because both of his sons participated in the war effort.)

Israel’s son, James Pemberton, supported the rights of the Native Americans, and, in 1757, published “An Apology for the People Called Quakers, containing some reasons for their not complying with human injunctions and institutions in matters relative to the worship of God.”  (At this time, I do not know of a Vargason connection to the Quaker faith.  This book also sounds a bit scholarly for the second text in one’s home.)

Ebenezer Pemberton, 1672-1717, was pastor to a Presbyterian church in New York City for 26 years and at Old South Church in Boston from 1700-1717.  Some of his sermons were published.  (This, too, sounds scholarly for this household, unless there was some connection to this minister.  Perhaps he visited the church in Norwich, or John’s pastor presented it as a gift.)

There was a New Testament by Pemberton and Rivington published in 1730.  (I expect that this would have been referred to in the will inventory as the New Testament, not a book by Mr. Pemberton.)

Pemberton book

Mr. Pemberton’s book

Finally, there was a book by Henry Pemberton, A View of Sir Isaac Newton’s Philosophy, published in 1728.  It was the common man’s Principia, a book by Sir Isaac Newton, which introduced the concepts of physics and calculus.  According to http://moneymuseum.com, it was in this book that Dr. Pemberton first told the famous story of Newton watching the apple fall and discovering the principle of gravity.

(I am guessing that this was the book in John Vergison’s will.   “In this book Pemberton tried to give an insight into Newton’s model in an easily comprehensible language to a broader readership.  The book was an immediate success; it was published in several editions and translated into various languages,” according to moneymuseum’s webpage.  This would have been a sound and popular reference book of its day.)

Having such a book in the home might indicate that some or all of the household members were literate enough to read the text and that John was interested in furthering his education or that of his children or grandchildren with the latest scientific knowledge.


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