MAW, Box 39, in the Methodist Archives, John Rylands University Library of Manchester, contains a stunning collection of 88 autograph letters originally belonging to the Home Office of the Baptist Missionary Society in London. All but four of these letters were composed between March 1842 and March 1843, during the Jubilee Celebration of the BMS. Seventy of these letters are addressed to Joseph Angus, the Missionary Society's secretary at that time, at the Mission House in Fenchurch Street, London, providing a rare look into the day-to-day activities of Angus and his associates during an important year in the history of the BMS. The BMS Home Office Paper, H/11 and H/12 (Angus Library, Regent's Park College, Oxford), cover the years of Anguas”s tenure as secretary of the BMS and contain only a handful of letters addressed to the Mission House between the years 1841 and 1843. A bound letter book contains carbon copies of 280 letters to and from Angus, beginning on 3 July 1848 and ending on 3 October 1849, but very little correspondence exists from Angus”s earlier years at the Mission House. According to the Committee Minute books, between 3000-4000 letters a year arrived at the Mission House during the 1840s. They were numbered as they arrived, and those numbers have been retained in the note for each of the letters in this set.
Whether Angus or one of his successors removed these letters is unclear, as is how these letters found their way into the Methodist Archives, but given how little of Angus's correspondence for that period has survived, the letters within Box 39 form an invaluable addition to the history of the BMS. Among Angus's correspondents are sixteen BMS missionaries, including eleven letters by John Clarke, BMS missionary to Jamaica, and two letters by Clarke”s traveling companion, the Jamaican doctor George K. Prince, written between 20 September 1842 and 21 March 1843, during the time the two men toured England raising support among Baptist congregations for the new BMS mission at Fernando Po on the coast of West Africa and the Cameroons. Much of Clarke's correspondence concerns his desire in 1843 that the BMS purchase a steam-powered schooner to transport missionaries to West Africa and the West Indies, as well as assist the mission work along the coast and inland rivers of West Africa. Five other letters in this collection also discuss the possibilities of the purchase of a schooner, including one from Edward Cowper, noted professor of engineering at King's College, University of London. The campaign led by Clarke would culminate in 1844 with the BMS's purchase of the Dove. Within Box 39 are also letters from such Baptist leaders as C. E. Birt, Christopher Anderson, William Colgate, J. M. Cramp, Richard Pengilly, James Peggs, Charles Kirtland, J. G. Pike, and Frederick Trestrail; BMS missionaries Robert Gay, J. D. Ellis, Thomas Parkinson, Joseph Clare, Thomas Thompson, Owen Johnson Birt, Sophia Parsons, and Rachel S. Voigt; and Baptist laymen, such as the manufacturer Samuel Giles of Manchester, the printer Josiah Fletcher of Norwich, and the engineer Richard Johnson of Liverpool; the soap manufacturer William Colgate of New York; George Bayley, ship inspector for Lloyd's Register of London; and Joseph Fletcher, owner of a prominent London shipping business.
Letters from several Baptist laywomen and missionaries appear as well, including one from Elizabeth Ivimey (third wife of the Baptist minister and historian, Joseph Ivimey), seeking ways to help John Clarke raise funds for the new mission at Fernando Po; two letters from Sophia Parsons (BMS missionary to India), the second one asking for BMS funds to build a new dormitory for the new school for “Native Female Orphans” at Patna, providing a place from which the young ladies would learn, she writes, to “be patterns of domestic order and social enjoyment” in their future homes in India; one from Rachel S. Voigt (daughter of Joshua and Hannah Marshman), requesting Angus to check on the whereabouts of a £1 donation from a Miss Angus of Newcastle for the work of the Serampore Ladies Benevolent Society, of which Miss Voigt was secretary; one from Clara Vowell Ryley, who was sending a wagon load of “garments for the African women” to the BMS Committee on behalf of the “Broadmead Ladies” in Bristol; one from H. Hope, Secretary of the Society for Promoting Female Education in the East, trying to collect from the BMS £82 owed her society due to the early marriage of Martha Wilson to the BMS missionary James Thomas of Calcutta; one from Sarah Walker of Halifax, who had forwarded Angus “the few garments my children have made for Africa” and was hoping that “with the aid of a few friends to furnish a Box of clothes or other articles for Fernando Po”; one from a Miss Aveline of Ross, Herefordshire, sister of George Aveline, BMS missionary to Grahamstown, South Africa, requesting Angus forward mementos of a departed parent to her brother; and one from Selena Spurgin in Suffolk, informing Angus that she would be sending him her Jubilee box “of useful, as well as fancy articles,” consisting of many things she considered “suitable for some of the Missionaries Wives, Children, and native teachers.”
Included in the section below are also some letters by Ann Judson, some of which have not been published heretofore.
For more on the Baptist letters in the Rylands Library, especially the Thomas Raffles Collection, see Timothy Whelan, ed. Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1741-1845. Macon: Baptist History Series, Mercer University Press, 2009; idem, “Baptist Autographs at the John Rylands University Library, Manchester.” Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester 89.2 (2013): 203-25; and idem, “A Chronological Calendar of Baptist Autographs in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 1741-1907.” Baptist Quarterly 42 (2008): 577-612..