Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Anatomy of a Marriage Book

The Christian Minister's Affectionate Advice to a New Married Couple
We found this marvelous little book in New England. At first, we thought it was just another religious miniature book. Then we looked inside and found a certificate of marriage, filled out in beautiful penmanship, with a date of March 21st 1858. We just had to have it!

For me, what makes an antique or old book so wonderful is not just the object, but the story behind it. The book got me to thinking. Who was this minister that wrote this little book with the ponderous title: The Christian Minister's Affectionate Advice to a New Married Couple. And what did he have to say about marriage? The author, Reverend James Bean, was Assistant Minister of Welbeck Chapel and one of the Librarians of the British Museum. His church Welbeck Chapel was located in the parish of Saint Mary-le-bone, in the County of Middlesex, in central London near Regent’s Park. Records are rather scant about this minister who authored several texts expounding on Parochial Instruction, Evidences of Christianity and Family Worship. I did find a simple reference to his death in the Theological Review and Ecclesiastical Review of London 1826:

Diocese of London – Durham… DECEASED… In the 74th year of his age, the Rev. James Bean, of Welbeck Chapel, Mary-le-bonne, and one of the Librarians of the British Museum. (circa Nov 1825)

Our American Tract Society edition is from the mid-1800s
The little book of advice was originally published in London in 1793. The American edition was revised and published quite a few years later. The book has had remarkable staying power, for it was republished again in 2006! The contents are quite dated, but give an insight into expectations and mores of the world in the 19th century.

Chapter I: Important Nature Of The Marriage Union.
Chapter II: The importance of a kind and amiable Temper and Deportment.
Chapter III: The Influence of Christian Piety on the Happiness of Married Life.
Chapter IV: The effects of Christian Piety on a household.
Chapter V: Short account of Evander and Theodosia.

In 1858, Reverend Edward Royce performed a marriage ceremony where he gave our little book to the newly married couple. Rev. Royce was the Pastor at the Baptist Church in Altay, Schuyler County, New York. Born in Clinton, New York, in 1815, Royce completed his studies at Madison University and was ordained in 1843. He traveled a bit, being a pastor at churches in Michigan and Ohio before taking on the pastor role at the Altay Baptist Church from 1854 to 1860. Health issues, both his and his wife Clara’s, forced him out of preaching by 1868. Obliged to give up hope of being pastor again, Royce entered into the book business. He passed away in the 1890s.

Certificate of Marriage included in our copy of this book
The couple who married on March 21st 1858 at the Altay Baptist Church were Mr. Miles Perkins and Miss Sarah Jane Simonson. Perkins was born at Cuylerville, a hamlet in Livingston County, New York, near the Genesee River. He was one of (at least) six sons and three daughters of John H. Perkins, one of the pioneer settlers of that locality, who lived to be 100 years of age, a remarkable feat back in the 1800s. For most of his 83 years, Miles Perkins lived in the town of Leicester, his father having located there when he was young.  

The Perkins’ farm, where Miles was born, skirts the Genesee River on the opposite side from where Miles was reared. No man knew "The Valley" better than he. Every bend in the river was familiar to him, for in his younger days he hunted much along the river and shot otter, mink and muskrat; also quail, woodcock and snipe. He was an expert hunter and marksman, and for years loved the sport. (Oct. 16, 1915, obituary in The Livingston Republican - Geneseo, NY.)

ASIDE: Miles Perkins brother, Warren Perkins, died in Andersonville prison during the Civil War.

Miles Perkins married Sarah Jane Simonson of Steuben County, New York, in 1858, as shown on the certificate included in our little book. Both Miles and Jane were 27 years old at the time. They had one child, Walter Perkins. Unfortunately, Jane passed away only a few years into the marriage. Walter was raised by his grandparents and Miles remarried in 1875. Miles himself passed in 1915, outliving both of his wives and his only son.

We have this little book for sale in the shop ($95.00).

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