1620

In November 1620, the story of the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers and the early days of the Plymouth colony following their arrival on the Mayflower were told for the first time in Morton’s Memorial, the oldest history book ever published in the USA, and of which one of the first editions is displayed here. It stands next to the first Creed from the New World and the creed of the Baptist tradition, which represents the most important Protestant movement in the United States today. 62 years before the voyage of the Mayflower, Calvin had thought of America, but further south, in Rio, from where his envoy Jean de Léry returned with extraordinary notes published in 1580 in his Voyage faict en la terre du Brésil.

The Mayflower (44)

This three-masted, 27-meter long boat was built in Holland, a country of ship owners who built such a boat in only six months. She left Plymouth on September 16 and approached the shores of Cape Cod on November 11, 1620 after a stopover in Newfoundland and a major storm that forced her from her final destination. Some of its passengers continued to stay there after some of the Pilgrim Fathers settled ashore. The Mayflower sailed back to England in the spring of 1521.


Ceramics made by Pablo Rezzonico

The landing of the Pilgrim Fathers (46)

This 18th century print made by J. Rogers depicts the famous landing in Plymouth Bay of the Pilgrim Fathers, after two months of crossing the Atlantic aboard the Mayflower. Fleeing religious constraints in England, ruled by King James I, these Puritans established a colony with the ambition of conforming as faithfully as possible to their Calvinist faith. Pilgrims amounted to 35 out of the 102 passengers and crew members. Clint Eastwood and Edward Snowden claim to be descendants of these pioneers.

J. Rogers after Charles Lucy (1814-1873), The Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers,
engraving, 18th century, Musée historique de la Réformation, Geneva,
deposit at the International Museum of the Reformation.

Morton’s Memorial (47)

This book can be considered as the first history book about the United States. It was written by Nathaniel Morton (1616-1685) who belonged to the first generation of Pilgrim Fathers settled in Plymouth. As Secretary to the colony for 40 years after being taken in by William Bradford, its governor, he wrote his account of the Pilgrim Fathers’ odyssey, which lists the signatories of the famous Mayflower Compact, the ancestor of the American constitution.
Nathaniel Morton, New England’s Memorial, 1721 (1st edition in 1685), on loan from the Museum of the Bible, Washington.

Increase Mather’s Confession of Faith (48)

Sixty years after the Mayflower landed on the shores of Massachusetts, the first confession of faith ever written in America was published in Boston. It is the work of Increase Matter (1639-1723), a Puritan pastor who was also one of the first presidents of Harvard University. Congregationalist in its inspiration, it has power exercised collegially by the community, following the model of the early church, and hierarchical organization is prohibited.
Increase Mather, A Confession of Faith, 1680, on loan from the Congregational Library in Boston.

First Baptist confession of faith (1743) (49)

The Baptist Church has more than 50 million followers in the United States today. It emphasizes the Bible at being central to faith and promotes the baptism of adults. Founded in 1609 by an English pastor, Baptism was structured in America thanks to the adoption, as early as 1742, of this creed, largely inspired by an English one. Its printer was none other than Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), one of the Fathers of American Independence who invented the lightning rod and the wood stove.


Philadelphia Confession of Faith, 1743, printed by B. Franklin,
on loan from the American Baptist Historical Society, Atlanta.

Story of a journey made in the land of Brazil (50)

The only direct relationship between Calvin and America was the destiny of Pastor Jean de Léry. The Reformer sent him in 1558 with others to the Bay of Rio to strengthen a French colony that had settled there. Cohabitation degenerated. Jean de Léry fled and took refuge with the Tupinambas Indians. He described them in this extraordinary tale which inspired Montaigne for his essay on the cannibals. Claude Lévi-Strauss said that Jean de Léry was the ancestor of ethnologists.
Histoire d’un voyage faict en la terre du Brésil, autrement dite Amerique, A Genève, pour Antoine Chuppin, 1580, édition de 1580. Facsimile.