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The 1791 Whitall-Tatum Family Bible Collection

November 8, 2019  -  Comments 0

Eleven months ago, I discovered a historical treasure among a historical treasure! That’s right. I purchased a 1st Ed 1791 “Isaac Collins” King James Bible (there are less than 100 of these extant) that was badly mangled in parts and half not. I was able to salvage the whole New Testament and Indexes but just a few portions of the OT. So then, what makes this an extra-special treasure?

On the General title page there are three signatures: Hannah Whitall Tatum, Ann C. Whitall, and Anna Whitall. I did not immediately understand that these women were from a famous 19th Century family of Quakers from the NJ-PA area, also known for their family’s glass making company: Whitall Tatum & Company.

On the inside cover of the Bible I found a strange bookplate. It depicted a two-story wood-frame house with the simple caption: “TSWEDELLE”.  So of course I googled it. To my surprise, it refers to the (Israel and Alice) Whitall family home located just outside of Philadelphia. Further research into the family and the signatures led me to the most renowned member of the extended family, Hannah Whitall Smith, the world-renowned Holiness evangelist and author whose many books are reprinted to this day.

The Whitall and Tatum families are related through two Whitall brothers (John Mickle and Israel Franklin) and two Whitall sisters (Hannah and Ann). Ann was named after her mother, Ann Cooper Whitall (1716-1797), the Revolutionary War “Heroine of Red Bank”. Hannah married a Tatum, and so became Hannah Whitall Tatum (1797-1848). Her brother John also married a Tatum (Mary — on her, see further below), which made the two Quaker families very close indeed. The two families eventually joined forces and became Whitall Tatum & Company of New Jersey.

So then, What became of the family Bible? It was likely originally purchased by Ann Cooper Whitall in 1791, year of the first edition of the Collins Bible as well as the birth year of Ann’s namesake, Ann C. Whitall (1791-1822) whose signature appears on the Bible’s General Title page, making her the first “owner of record” for the Bible. At some point the Bible came into the possession of her sister Hannah (see above) who in turn gave the Bible to her niece Anna (daughter of Hannah’s brother Israel). Thus the three signatures on the Bible’s General Title page. Direct provenance of the Bible ends with Anna.

While there is no direct ownership link to Anne’s famous aunt, Hannah Whitall Smith (a/k/a HWS), her aunt did write, among many other books, a biography of Anne’s sister Alice Whitall who, according to HWS, rediscovered the Reformation sola fide (faith alone) wholly on her own, by reading her Bible; this at the chagrin of Alice’s strongly Quaker family and friends. It is likely that the surviving New Testament from the Whitall-Tatum Bible was read by Alice Whitall whose renewed life and untimely death became the subject of Hannah Whitall Smith’s first book, “On the Rock,” in 1870.

I have since acquired a First Edition of “On the Rock” with a further signature, Mary C. Whitall. I also acquired another of HWS’s books, “John M. Whitall,” also a First Edition, this one is a biography of her father. These two books undoubtedly honed HWS’s writing skills which she would need for the dozen or so more religious books that she would write until her death in 1911.

Having thus pieced together the provenance of the Whitall-Tatum Bible, I have created “The Whitall-Tatum Bible Collection” which now includes: (1) The remaining Bible “fragment,” that is, the New Testament in its entirely; (2) The original Bible’s General Title page with the three signatures; (3) The original Bible’s title to Genesis 1, with COA; (4) the two 1st Edition books by Hannah Whitall Smith cited above; and (5) two reprints/pamphlets that provide a 200 year context to this remarkable Whitall-Tatum family.

See the Whitall-Tatum Bible Collection in the “Exceptional Items” Category on this site. Comments are most welcome.

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