It was four hundred years ago this month that the Pilgrims reached Cape Cod aboard the ship Mayflower, ending a 66 day voyage across the Atlantic Ocean from England in 1620.

William Bradford (1590-1657), soon to become Governor of Plymouth Colony for 30 years, brought with him this copy of the New Testament with comments of John Calvin throughout. It is signed by William Bradford on its title page.

It was later listed by him in his will as a book in his library which he brought with him to America aboard the Mayflower. It is currently in our collection, along with other relics of the period, including an original Pilgrim blunderbuss and hat.

The Bradford Calvin New Testament was displayed in the Tertiary (300th Anniversary) Exhibit on the Pilgrims along with other known relics of the Mayflower passengers in 1920-1921, at the New York Public Library.

Bradford was an English Puritan separatist who had moved from Yorkshire in Northern England to Leiden, Holland to escape persecution under England’s King James I. Along with many of the Scrooby and Leiden separatists he journeyed to Plymouth Colony on the Mayflower in 1620.

He signed the Mayflower Compact in 1620, which created the first democratic body politic in what became the United States.

He also kept an important journal covering the years of 1620-1647 in Plymouth which he called “Of Plymouth Plantation.” It has become one of the key primary sources of material on the Pilgrims.

Of the 102 original passengers who came to America aboard the Mayflower in 1620, only 53 survived to see the First Thanksgiving in November, 1621. It must have been a solemn affair. 

Just four adult women had survived to celebrate that First Thanksgiving, probably due to the women having to tend to the sick during those first months in the New World.

Despite their hardships, we are told by Bradford and others, that the Pilgrims expressed their gratitude to God that First Thanksgiving for safely bringing them to America and preserving them that first year. 

Obviously, if the Pilgrims were grateful for their blessings in such trying times, so should we be grateful this Thanksgiving for a kind Providence bringing us through this period of strife and pandemic.