1661 Algonquin New Testament

The First Bible Printed in America



On October 28, 1646, in a wigwam in Nonantum (now Newton), missionary John Eliot preached his first sermon to members of the Massachusett tribe in their own language. Sharing the Gospel with the natives was an early aim of the colony. After fifteen years living among the tribe and studying their conversations, he developed a written language for them. In 1661, Eliot published a New Testament in their Natick-Massachusetts Indian dialect. This New Testament was/is the first New Testament ever to be published in America. Eliot also published the first full Bible in their language which is/was the first Bible ever to be printed in America. John Eliot and his native translators, including Job Nesuton, had labored for more than a decade to complete the work. Printers Samuel Green, Marmaduke Johnson, and James Printer spent nearly three years at the press, printing its more than 1,200 pages and finally completing the Bible in 1663. The first seal of the Massachusetts colony included the picture of a Native American speaking the words “Come and help us” (from Acts 16:9). John Eliot did.

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you for pm-ing me this morning about the Algonquin Gospel.  As you know, this will help me in my pursuit of being a more authentic Warrior and Praying Indian, and I have you to thank for that, my friend.”

Jonathan David Yellowbear, Sokoki/Abenaki Indian Nation #2367

“The Algonquin language BIBLE arrived today in the mail. I am absolutely thrilled to be reading this BIBLE FOR the very first TIME. I plan on doing better.  I am planning on being able to incorporate the readings from this with my reenacting persona.  Kitchi Wliwinni, Wlinanawalemizi ta Klibmkanni.”

Jonathan Yellowbear

When the Museum of the Bible opens this coming November they will have Eliot’s 1663 Algonquin Bible on display. I hope that when I am able to visit, we (Hunter Willis & I) will have completed our replicate of Eliot’s 1661 New Testament. If so, I plan to donate one to them so that they can have it near their original so that the public will be able to see, feel, touch, & read my replica. I find myself frustrated when I look at old books under to touch. Who knows, by the time I can get there, we may have Eliot’s’ 1663 Old Testament finished as well. Especially if I can recruit James Darlack to work on it after he completes his work on the Robert Aitken 1772 Old Testament.
This is John 3:16 from our replica of John Eliot’s 1661 Algonquin New Testament, the first New Testament made in America.
Matteson, John Elliot Preaching to the Indians, 1849, Youngstown

Jonathan D Yellowbear and his 1661 Algonquin New Testament

These images are from an original 1661 Algonquin bible. Note the detailed views of tooling and the care taken in the design of the Bible.

Thanks to the William L. Clements Library for the images.

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This is a photo of Eddie Rector’s powder horn with the Lord’s Prayer in the Algonquian inscribed on it.

John Eliot was a Puritan missionary to the Native American Indians. In addition to publishing the first book in British North America (Bay Psalm Book), he also translated the Bible into the Massachusett language (Algonquin) . We make replicas of both of these books. This portrait hangs in The National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC
This is the first seal of the Massachusetts colony included the picture of a Native American speaking the words “Come and help us” (from Acts 16:9).