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Rare Books

Firestone Library
One Washington Road
Princeton, NJ 08540
Curator of Rare Books

Southcott, an English domestic servant, began hearing voices at the age of 42 and believed these to be divine communications prophesying the Second Coming of Christ. By the time of her death in 1814, she had attracted over one hundred thousand followers. She dictated her prophecies primarily to her secretaries, Ann Underwood and Jane Townley, and these were often copied by others and then circulated among the believers.

The Library has acquired three accessions of material relating to Joanna Southcott, the English prophetess whose "voice" first came to her in 1792 and who published sixty-five books in her lifetime. Her first, The Strange Effects of Faith, appeared in 1801. In addition to her publications, there circulated in manuscript her numerous "communications." As a result of these accessions, the Library now has a nearly complete collection of her publications as well as seven boxes of manuscripts. The printed materials are found both in the rare books section of the Holden Women's Collection as well as in the General Rare Books Collection (Ex).

A portion of the printed material includes a collection of over 40 volumes, purchased in 2007 from Bonhams in Bath, England. About 30 of the volumes were owned by the Rev. Thomas Philip Foley and his wife, Elizabeth (Bache) Foley. The Rev. Foley joined Southcott's circle in 1801-02, and together with his wife was a supporter of Southcott, assisting her in publishing her materials. One set of the bound pamphlet volumes has his extensive manuscript annotations; another set belonged to Elizabeth, but are mostly unmarked. (The Foley annotated set has the call numbers (Ex)2007-0905N to (Ex)2007-0912N.)

Not to be overlooked is the Southcottian manuscript collection consisting of many "communications" [(MSS) C0755]. See also: E.P. Wright. A Catalogue of the Joanna Southcott Collection at the University of Texas (Austin, 1968) [(F) 3937.55.089] and a study based on that collection by James K Hopkins. A Woman to Deliver Her People (Austin, 1982) [(F) BF1815.S7 H66].