How did Regent College, a theological school on Canada’s Pacific coast, become the home of more than 3,500 rare books related to the Puritans?

In 2002, two friends donated their personal collections of 17th-century Puritan literature to the John Richard Allison Library at Regent College: James M. Houston, a Scotsman who was the school’s founding principal, and his friend and colleague, the English theologian J.I. Packer. Later, the library acquired the collections of Puritan works from E.B. Heaven, a minister from Ontario, and James B. Torrance, another Scottish theologian who once taught at Regent. More recently, a donor provided funds for acquiring additional works of special interest.

A notable treasure in the collection is an unusual book that is a compilation of John Bunyan’s devotional classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress. Hand-assembled and bound by a reader a long time ago, it is full of delightful quirks and items of scholarly interest.ALLEGORICAL HERO An early reader added his own illustration of Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian, on his journey to the Celestial City.: PHOTO BY JENNY-LYN DE KLERK

The book is made up of three parts.

Part one is from the 12th edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress, published in 1689. It includes a charming drawing of Bunyan’s protagonist, Christian, on his pilgrimage, belongings in a bundle on his back, walking up a hill, reading a book. Part two is from the 1690 edition of The Pilgrim’s Progress and includes a flower pressed between two pages. Part three is from an entirely different book, a sequel to The Pilgrim’s Progress called The Third Part, published in 1693. At the time, it was believed to have been written by Bunyan himself, but we now know it was not, and the author is still unknown. The preface to part three is signed by “J.B.,” but this could not have been Bunyan, who died five years before it was published.

The Allison Library — which hosts the joint collections of Regent College and Carey Theological College — has now made available its entire rare Puritan collection to read online for free, including The Pilgrim’s Progress. You can explore these remarkable items on its website.

Image caption:
This image shows an illustration that an early reader drew in the book, showing Bunyan's protagonist, Christian, while on his way to the Celestial City.

Jenny-Lyn de Klerk is the Puritan book project assistant at the Allison Library at Regent College.

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