One of my favorite things about working with special collections is the type of materials that can fall into your lap. Recently I was searching the stacks for a volume in our Pennsylvania collection and in the process I came across the volume pictured at the left, Acts and Laws, Colony of Rhode Island, 1730.
The State Library began in 1811 as a document exchange program between states and we have large holdings of other states’ legislative documents. The Rhode Island volume is just one of many we have for the state, but a particularly interesting one, as it was published in 1730 prior to American independence. The volume includes both the 1663 charter of the colony issued by King Charles the Second and the acts and laws of the colony. The information contained in this volume is invaluable for researchers of early American legal history, early Rhode Island history, and history of rule under the crown.
At the bottom of the title page a signature reads “Samuel Bennett.” While we cannot be certain of the provenance of this volume, a bit of research turned up references to a Samuel Bennett Jr. of East Greenwich, Rhode Island who was born around 1664 and died in 1745. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts includes a lengthy passage about the Bennett family and notes that the junior Mr. Bennett was a carpenter and deacon of two churches, one in East Greenwich and one in Warwick. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs Relating to the Families of the State of Massachusetts is available in the State Library under call number O 929 M31 C99g. Acts and Laws, Colony of Rhode Island, 1730 is available in the Special Collections department as part of the Rhode Island collection.
- Lacy Crews Stoneburner, Preservation Librarian