Billy Graham Center

Records of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts - Collection 155

[Note: The BGC Archives does not have the original documents of this collection. What it does have is a microfilm edition of the papers, which it purchased from a publisher, as did many other archives and libraries.]

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent.]

Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Historical Background of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

Lists of Microfilm in This Collection (Location Records)


Brief Description.
Correspondence both from and to S.P.G. missionaries. Special emphasis on North American colonies. In three series: A-Letterbooks 1702-1737; B-Letterbooks 1701-1786; C-Unbound correspondence. Purchased by the Billy Graham Center Library. Vol: 27 Reels of Microfilm CN # 155 .

Collection 155
[March 14, 2001]
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel; 1701-
Letter Books; 1701-1786
27 Reels of Microfilm


Permission to quote from the film must be secured from:

The Archivist
Society for the Propagation of the Gospel
15, Tulton Street
London, S.W.1. ENGLAND

Historical Background

The Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts was founded by Royal Charter granted on June 16, 1701. The Bishop of London, Henry Compton, concerned about the lack of religious activity in the colonies appointed Thomas Bray as commissary for Maryland in 1696. Bray was instrumental in forming the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge in 1698 and it was in a meeting of S.P.C.K. that the S.P.G. charter was written.

The primary object of the Society was to "ensure that sufficient mainteynance [sic] be provided for an orthodox clergy to live amongst the colonists and that such other provision be made as may be necessary for the propagation of the gospel in those parts..." Hence the original work of the S.P.G. was in areas ruled by the British Crown.

Responsibilities of the first missionaries included: performance of divine service, catechism, baptism, instruction for the "heathen and infidels" and encouragement of educational establishments.

Besides North America, work was also carried on in Africa from 1751, and India from 1818. Since that time the organization expanded its outreach into all British Colonies and is still an active organization working under the name, The United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel.

Scope and Content

The collection consists of 27 reels of microfilm of the 51 volumes and 15 boxes in the S.P.G. archives in London. It is divided into three series.

Series A (1702-1737) consists of Manuscript Letter-books kept by the first three secretaries of the Society. Volumes 1-6 contain only In-letters, Volumes 7-26 contain both In- and Out-letters. Here are letters and papers from (and to) the missionaries appointed by S.P.G. to the American Colonies, and also from Governors of Colonies, private persons and church-wardens there. Inland letters come from subscribers in England, and others. There a few from churches on the continent of Europe. The letters are arranged chronologically, but there is some overlapping of dates, as inland letters were copied into the books long before those of the same date from overseas. The letter books are of considerable importance, as the majority of the originals from which the letters were copied are no longer existing.

Series B (1701-1786) contains original in-letters and drafts of out-letters. The bulk consists of letters received from the American Colonies, with a sizeable number of letters sent to the colonies. Some volumes relate mainly to a particular colony, but volumes 7-20 contain general correspondence, beginning in 1738 (just after the A Series ends) and continuing to 1753. The other volumes contain letters mainly from:

1 New York and New England, 1712-13; 1725-33
2-3 New York, 1755-82
4-5 North and South Carolina, 1715-91
6 Bahamas, Barbados, Newfoundland, Pennsylvania
8 Barbados
21 Pennsylvania, 1700-82; New York, 1775-83
22 Massachusetts
23 Connecticut, 1754-82
24 New Jersey, 1754-82
25 Nova Scotia, 1760-86

Series C (1635-1812) consists of eighteenth century letters from the Colonies (original), not bound but rather kept in boxes. The series is similar to A and B, and it is not known why these letters were not bound with others in volumes. There are also sixty-five letters (1731-33) from Society secretary Rev. Dr. David Humphreys, to missionaries and others, mainly acknowledging letters from the addresses and giving instructions thereon. The exception to similarity with A and B is in the collection of Georgia papers (eight letters, 1758-82), which constitute the bulk of S.P.G. documents concerning this colony. The contents of the boxes are arranged chronologically within the colonies:

1 New York and New Jersey, 1707-30
2 New York and New Jersey, 1730-91
3 Connecticut, 1635-1804
4 Pennsylvania, 1703-84
5 Massachusetts, 1712-1812
6 Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, 1755-1811
7 Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas. Georgia. east Florida. 1712-49
8 Same as above, 1758-84
9 Rhode Island, 1714-1800
10 Virginia and Pennsylvania deeds, 1691-1767
11 Charles Inglis, letters and diary, 1764-89 (New York)
12 David Humphreys, letters to America, 1731-34
13 Missionaries' Bills of Exchange and Receipts, 1745-53; 1780-85
14 Home letters (from England), to 1720
15 Home letters (from England), 1720-40

Accompanying this guide are two indexes. The Personal name Index was compiled from contemporary indexes found in the volumes of Series A and B. The Geographical Index includes Series A, B, and C. Because of the nature of Series C (an unindexed loose collection of letters), it was not possible to prepare a Personal Name Index for that series.



This collection was purchased by the Center Library. The originals are in the possession of the United Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in London.

No Accession #
May 29, 1981
Gerald P. Lynch
G. Wilson

No Accession #
Type of Material: Microfilm

The following items are located in the CENTER LIBRARY MICROFILM ROOM:

All reels are 35mm, positive copy.

Series A
Reel 1 volumes 1-3; 1702-1707
Reel 2 volumes 4-5; 1708-1710
Reel 3 volumes 6-8; 1710-1712
Reel 4 volumes 8-11; 1712-1716
Reel 5 volumes 12-15; 1717-1721
Reel 6 volumes 16-19; 1722-1727
Reel 7 volumes 20-23; 1727-1731
Reel 8 volumes 23-26; 1731-1736
Series B
Reel 9 volumes 1-2; 1712-1714, 1725-1733, 1761-1764
Reel 10 volumes 2-3; 1764-1767
Reel 11 volumes 3-5; 1760-1779
Reel 12 volumes 5-6; 1763-1770
Reel 13 volumes 6-7; 1739-1741, 1769-1770
Reel 14 volumes 8-10; 1739-1743
Reel 15 volumes 11-13; 1743-1745
Reel 16 volumes 13-16; 1745-1748
Reel 17 volumes 17-18; 1748-1750
Reel 18 volumes 18-21; 1750-1769
Reel 19 volumes 21-22; 1757-1784
Reel 20 volume 23; 1747-1782
Reel 21 volumes 23-25; 1760-1786
Reel 22 volume 25; 1760-1786
Series C
Reel 23 boxes 1-4; 1635-1804
Reel 24 boxes 5-8; 1712-1812
Reel 25 boxes 8-13; 1714-1800
Reel 26 box 13; 1745-1753, 1780-1785
Reel 27 boxes 14-15; 1700-1740

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Last Revised: 3/15/01
Expiration: indefinite