Brainerd's Journal

Reference code(s): GB 0237 Edinburgh University Library Dc.7.68
Held at: Edinburgh University New College Library
Title: Brainerd's Journal
Date(s) of contents: 1745-1746
Level of description: Fonds
Extent and medium: 1 volume


Name of creator(s): Brainerd, David (1718-1747)

Administrative/Biographical history: David Brainerd, American missionary to Indian tribes, was born on 20 April 1718 at Haddam, Connecticut. His father, a farmer and local justice of the peace, died when he was nine and his mother when he was fourteen. These events exacerbated Brainerd's natural inclination to melancholy and he suffered periods of profound depression for the rest of his life. His youth was spent farming, studying the bible and praying until he began to study for the ministry at Yale in 1739. It was here that he suffered the first bout of tuberculosis which was to end his life prematurely. At college Brainerd became involved in the New Light Christian Movement and in 1741 was expelled from Yale for criticising a tutor. He became an itinerant preacher travelling in New England and New York and gaining several admirers until in 1743 he began four years of solitary missionary work with Indians, funded partially by the Scottish Society for Propagating Christian Knowledge. He started at Stockbridge and then travelled throughout Massachusetts, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey where he founded a mission and met with his greatest success. Brainerd was ordained in 1744. Often physically ill and still plagued by depression he struggled to cope with the hardships of wilderness living. In April 1747, seriously weakened by tuberculosis, he left New Jersey for the home of his friend Jonathan Edwards in Northampton, Massachusetts where he died in October of that year. Brainerd made relatively few converts but he has acquired a reputation as one of the foremost missionaries in the field. His fame was achieved largely because of the publication of his diaries, two instalments of these were published in 1746. It was the publication by Edwards of An Account of the Life of the late Reverend Mr. David Brainerd in 1749 that assured Brainerd his reputation, the work has been reprinted many times and has inspired many missionaries.

Custodial history: The volume is one of only three extant 'Brainerd' manuscripts. One, held at Yale, is in Brainerd's hand and covers the early years of his life. The second is held by the Connecticut Historical Society and covers the events between June 1745 and June 1746, only a small part of which is in Brainerd's hand. Norman Pettit in his edition of Jonathan Edwards' Life of David Brainerd argues that the Connecticut manuscript is a copy of a journal that Brainerd sent to Scotland in 1745, although the manuscript continues to 1746. The volume at Edinburgh University is a transcription of part of the Connecticut manuscript.

Immediate source of acquisition:


Scope and content/abstract: The volume is a manuscript copy of a section of the journal or diaries of David Brainerd covering the dates 24 November 1745 to 10 May 1746. It is not in Brainerd's hand and the date on which the copy was made is not clear although it is a counterpart of the 1746 published Journal.

System of arrangement: The manuscript pages have been bound into a volume by the Library.


Language: English.

Conditions governing access: Contact the repository for details.

Conditions governing reproduction: Contact the repository for details.

Finding aids: Alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives.


Related material: Other manuscript versions of the diaries can be found at the Beinecke Library, Yale and at the Connecticut Historical Society. Yale also holds some letters from or about Brainerd and the diaries. Edinburgh University New College Library has a small (four or five line) manuscript piece of the diary from October 1745 or 1746 (reference CM/Appx 20a).

Publication note: The manuscript is a counterpart of the first published Brainerd's Journal published in two parts by William Bradford of Philadelphia in 1746, a complete edition of which was published in Edinburgh in 1765. The most famous edition of the diaries is An Account of the Life of the Reverend Mr. David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards in 1749. Norman Pettit's edition of Edwards' Life (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985) describes the various editions in detail.


Archivist's note: Compiled by Caroline Brown, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives.

Note: The biographical history was compiled using the following material: (1) Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions Gerald H. Anderson (ed.) (New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 1998). (2) Jonathan Edwards The Life of David Brainerd Norman Pettit (ed.) (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 1985)

Date(s) of descriptions: 7 July 2000

Indians of North America
United States

Personal names
Brainerd | David | 1718-1747

Corporate names

United States