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Chapter 1 – The Prison Door
Isaac Johnson (1601-1630): One of the first settlers of the Boston area. He was an Officer of the Massachusetts Bay Commonwealth. Learn more about Isaac Johnson.
Anne Hutchinson (1590-1643): A religious liberal who was persecuted by the Puritans. She was tried and banished from Massachusetts in 1638 for her beliefs. Read some of the transcript of her trial.
Chapter 2 – The Market-Place
Mistress Hibbins: The real Ann Hibbins was put to death as a witch in 1656. She was a widow of a merchant (not a magistrate) and was not the sister of Governor Bellingham.
Elizabeth I (1533-1603): Queen of England 1558-1603. Learn more about Queen Elizabeth I.
Beadle: An low level church officer having a variety of minor duties.
Papist: A Roman Catholic regarded as a partisan of the Pope - used disparagingly. Read The Plight of the Papist Priest.
Chapter 3 – The Recognition
Bellingham, Governor Richard (1592-1672): Elected governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony (1641, 1654, 1665-1672); born in Boston, Lincolnshire, England; came to Boston, Mass. in 1634.
Wilson, Reverend John (1588-1667): Puritan clergyman who came to Boston in 1630. He was the chief prosecutor of Anne Hutchinson.
Chapter 4 – The Interview
Lethe: In Greek mythology, Lethe is the river of forgetfulness in Hades. The dead drank from Lethe upon their arrival in the underworld.
Nepenthe: In Greek mythology, Nepenthe is a drug taken to banish pain.
Paracelsus (1493-1541): An alchemist (one who studies or practices the medieval chemistry that attempted to transform base metals into gold). Learn more about Paracelsus (also mentioned in Frankenstein!). Read his Coelum Philosophorum.
Chapter 5 – Hester at Her Needle
Cain: (Bible) Son of Adam and Eve, brother of Abel. Read more about Cain.
Sumptuary laws: Rules limiting personal expenditures that affected the way people dressed. Learn more about the sumptuary laws.
Chapter 6 – Pearl
Martin Luther (1483-1546): German leader of the Protestant Reformation. Learn more about Martin Luther.
Chapter 7 – The Governor’s Hall
Seven years’ slave: An allusion to indentured servants. This was the only way many people could afford to come to the New World.
Chronicles of England: A text providing a geographical description of each region of England and an account of its past, traced back to prehistorical and legendary origins and continuing up through the sixteenth century. Learn more about Holinshed’s Chronicles.
(This is also where Shakespeare got the ideas for Macbeth!)
Pequot War: The first of the many wars between American settlers and the Native Americans. See a map of Pequot War battle sites. See a chronology of the Pequot War.
Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634), Sir William Noye (1577-1634), and Sir John Finch (1584-1660) were a group of English lawyers.
Chapter 8 – The Elf-Child and the Minister
King James I (1566-1625): Also King James VI of Scotland. He commissioned the Authorized King James Version of the Bible. Learn more about King James I.
Lord of Misrule: The master of the revels in medieval Christmas celebrations. Learn more about the Lord of Misrule.
John the Baptist: A reference to the Bible, specifically the Gospels. John baptized Jesus. Learn more about John the Baptist.
New England Primer: The most commonly used textbook in the United States for over 100 years. It was used to help teach children to read. It also includes religious references. Learn more about the New England Primer.
Westminster Catechism: A series of questions and their prescribed answers used to teach children about Christianity. Children memorize the answers and recite them to exhibit their knowledge.
Chapter 9 – The Leech
Elixir of Life: A term derived from alchemy and used to denote the supposed liquid, a draught of which would give eternal life. Closely related to the Philosopher’s Stone.
Oxford University: See today’s Oxford University website.
Gobelin Looms: See a picture of a Gobelin loom.
David and Bathsheba: This is from the Bible, Kings 2:11-12. The tale is a story of adultery. Learn more about David and Bathsheba.
Nathan the Prophet: Also from the Bible. Nathan was a prophet in the times of David and Solomon. Learn more about Nathan the Prophet.
Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman: These men were involved in an adultery scandal in England in 1615.
Chapter 10 – The Leech and His Patient
John Bunyan (1628-1688): Author of Pilgrim’s Progress. Learn more about John Bunyan.
Holy Writ: Another name for the Bible.
Chapter 11 – The Interior of a Heart
Pentecost: In Jewish tradition the festival commemorates the giving of the law to Moses at Mt. Sinai. On the Pentecost after the resurrection of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descended on the disciples in the form of tongues of fire accompanied by the sound of a rush of wind, and gave them the power of speaking in such a way that people of different languages could understand them. Learn more about the Pentecost.
Sanctity of Enoch: Reference to the Bible. The theme of the Book of Enoch deals with the nature and deeds of the fallen angels. Learn more about the Book of Enoch.
Chapter 12 – The Minister’s Vigil
Mill-stone: Stone used to grind wheat or other grains into flour. Learn more about milling.
Geneva Cloak: The black coat then worn by Calvinist ministers.
Governor Winthrop (1588-1649): Was a Puritan leader who started some of the first colonies in America. He was a very religious governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Learn more about Governor Winthrop.
Chapter 13 – Another View of Hester
Chapter 14 – Hester and the Physician
Chapter 15 – Hester and Pearl
Horn-book: Tablet used to teach spelling. See a picture of a Horn-book.
Chapter 16 – A Forest Walk
Apostle Eliot (Rev. John Eliot): Ministered to the Native Americans. Learn more about the Reverend Eliot.
Chapter 17 – The Pastor and His Parishioner
Chapter 18 – A Flood of Sunshine
Chapter 19 – The Child at the Brook-Side
Hieroglyphic: Ancient form of writing using pictures instead of letters and words. See examples of Hieroglyphics.
Chapter 20 – The Minister in a Maze
The Spanish Main: The Caribbean area dominated by the Spanish.
Election Sermon: Sermons preached on the mornings of the general elections of the colony or township. The purpose of these sermons was to instruct the people on the biblical foundations of social order. Read more about Election Sermons.
Bristol: British seaport. Most ships traveled between New England and England, and not directly to European ports.
Ann Turner: Involved in the adultery scandal with Sir Thomas Overbury and Dr. Forman. See chapter 6 (above).
Chapter 21 – The New England Holiday
Wampum belts: Belt-wampum beads were rectangular cutouts, with drilled holes, rolled smooth on sandstone, then woven into a shell-beaded fabric. They recorded agreements. Learn more about Wampum belts.
Wrestling in the style of Cornwall and Devonshire: Cornwall and Devonshire are regions in England. Learn more about this type of wrestling.
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Chapter 22 – The Procession
College of Arms: The College of Arms is the official repository of the coats of arms and pedigrees of English, Welsh, Northern Irish and Commonwealth families and their descendants. Visit the College of Arms website.
Knights Templar: The Knights Templar was founded during the First Crusade with the express intent of protecting pilgrims. Learn more about the Knights Templar.
Increase Mather (1639-1723): A prominent Boston minister. Learn more about Increase Mather.
Chapter 23 – The Revelation of the Scarlet Letter
Chapter 24 – Conclusion