Historical Society discovers rare work of Roger Williams

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The Rhode Island Historical Society has come across a rare, and lucky, find: a document written by the state's founder, Roger Williams. The first edition of the 1644 writings, "The Bloudy Tenent," were found by a librarian in August, but only recently verified as authentic. The work was found tucked inside some other historical writings on a shelf with rare books.

There are only five other known first editions of the tract, including two of them at Brown University. The others are held by Trinity College in England, Trinity College in Ireland and the New York Public Library.

The volume is in good condition because it was printed on paper made from cotton, rather than wood, said Karen Eberhart, the society's library director.

The tract lays out Williams' theories of religious liberty, including the separation of church and state. He also writes about freedom of conscience and an end to people being persecuted for their religious beliefs.

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