From English to Algonquian: Early New England Translations



Natives and colonists worked together to produce a body of Algonquian-language texts in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries.

Works published in the Algonquian family of languages served a specific purpose and therefore could be read only by a select group of Algonquian-speaking colonists and literate natives. Many in England and New England believed that these translated works were integral to spreading the gospel and Anglo-Protestant culture throughout New England; others viewed these documents as novelty items or curiosities.

Today, extant copies of these translated works are exceedingly uncommon. In fact, no copies remain of the first book printed in the Algonquian language in America, an Indian primer authored by John Eliot in 1654.

Click through the items in the carousel below to learn more about each publication.

The publications highlighted here are those held in the collection at the American Antiquarian Society and printed between 1661 and 1709. Among them are the most well known of the translations, including the Algonquian Bible and the Massachuset Psalter as well as several popular English texts translated into Algonquian languages.

Also included are several tracts authored by colonists detailing the progress of evangelical work amongst the native people of New England and intended to garner financial support from England to continue missionary efforts in the colonies.