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Collection 336 Papers of William Carey

Identifier: CN 336

Scope and Contents

This collection consists of one reel of microfilm containing materials relating to William Carey’s life and ministry. The materials include letters, engravings, biography, reports of the jubilee of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1842, Carey's will, an 1862 lecture on Carey, and fifty-two letters from Carey in Serampore, India, to John Rydland, along with several miscellaneous items.

The reel includes an index (hand-written); engraving of John Ryland, the minister of the Broadmead Chapel and principal of Baptist College, Bristol, 1793-1825, secretary of the Baptist Missionary Society, 1815-1825; an engraving of William Carey; a biography of Carey from Bakers Northamptonshire, presumably of his birthplace; an engraving of the house at Kettering where the Baptist Missionary Society was formed; a report of the Jubilee of the Baptist Missionary Society from the Northampton Mercury, October 22, 1842; Carey's will, 1834; a lecture on Dr. Carey by I. Bedford, 1862; and fifty-two letters from Carey in Serampore, India, to Dr. Ryland, in Bristol, England. Also included is a typed copy of a letter from Rev. Dr. Marshman to Rev. Dr. Ryland, 1816; the will of Mary Bryant, 1816; and letters from D. Templeton to Rev. Dr. Ryland, October 18, 1816, to June 16, 1817, regarding implementation of the will.

"The Late Dr. Carey..." text is a eulogy to Carey, delivered on October 22, 1842. Carey's will, dated 1834, is a brief document in which he disclaims all rights to Mission Premises, center of his activities, and bequeaths his possessions to his family. A printed copy of a lecture on Carey delivered in the schoolroom attached to the College-street Chapel is dated May 17, 1862.

The hand-written letters begin December 26, 1793, written after arrival in India, and reflect his intense desire to propagate the gospel. They include descriptions of daily activities, some accounts of disputations about the Christian faith, his translation work, descriptions of the people and speculation about their ethnic origins, the wild life of India, preparations for publication, expenses, and other details of his work in India. The last letter is dated July 7 (?), 1825. Most of the letters are legible, but some are not because of faded ink.

A letter from Rev. Dr. Marshman to Rev. Dr. Ryland, sent from Serampore,

December 13, 1816, and received June 16, 1817, is copied in type. It is concerned with refutation of a statement of assumption and misinformation regarding an unpublished work. The will of Mary Bryant, missionary at Serampore, includes with it letters regarding disputed claims of individuals described as "Missionaries of Serampore" in the will. An extensive history of the establishment of the Serampore mission is included in this disputation, which includes detailed information about families and finances. Dates are between 1820-1822.

The original material was microfilmed by the Historical Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention.


  • Created: 1793-1862

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.

Biographical or Historical Information

William Carey, born August 17, 1761, was the son of Elizabeth and Edmund Carey, the latter a journeyman tammy weaver who lived in Prury End, England. When William was seven years old, his father was appointed parish clerk and schoolmaster of the school in that village, and the instruction given to his son was the only formal education William Carey received. It included being taught to read from the scriptures, an assiduous attention to attendance at services in the Anglican Church, and extensive reading in religious and scientific works.

At fourteen he was apprenticed to a shoemaker in Hackleton whose assistant was a dissenter. Carey's contacts with this man resulted in his joining a Baptist dissenters group in 1783. He was baptised at Northampton by Dr. John Ryland. Urged by friends to preach, he did so without giving up his livelihood. In 1786 he moved to Moulton as pastor of a Baptist congregation, and opened a village school to increase his income. It was in the process of teaching his pupils that he became aware of the need for conversion of those in far parts of the world, and wrote a tract concerning this "melancholy" truth, later published in 1792. His desire for further knowledge and a gift for languages led him to study Latin, so that he was able to read the Bible in this language, and to master as well Greek, Hebrew, French, Italian, and Dutch.

In September of 1790, he became pastor of another Baptist congregation at Leicester, and through his concern and efforts initiated the formation of the Baptist Missionary Society in 1792. Entirely through his conviction of the necessity of acting on the lack of mission work in India, Carey sailed in June 1793 with the express hope of "laying the foundation of the church of Christ in India." He arrived in November in Bengal with an associate, Mr. Thomas (who died shortly thereafter), his wife and her sister, and their eldest son. The small investment brought with the Carey party was lost at sea, and so Carey became the manager of an indigo factory near Malda in March 1794, after an unsuccessful attempt to support his family on the land. Carey remained in Malda, founding schools and preaching where possible, until 1799. In January 1800 he moved to the Danish settlement at Serampore where he joined his colleagues Ward and Marshman. His first Indian convert was baptized in the Ganges River on the twenty-eighth of December that year.

On his arrival in India, Carey had undertaken the study of Bengalee, a dialect of the district where he worked, and in 1796 also began the study of Sanskrit. At the end of 1799 he had nearly completed the translation of the Bible into Bengalee. In the thirty years of his work in India, almost entirely through his impetus, the whole or portions of the Bible had been translated and printed in forty different dialects.

His outstanding accomplishments as a linguist led to an appointment as first professor of Sanskrit, Bengalee, and Mahratta in the college of Fort William, Calcutta. In 1805 he received a Doctorate of Divinity degree from a Scotch university and a year later he was elected member of the Asiatic Society of Calcutta. In 1823 Carey was appointed translator of the laws and regulations of the governor-general of India. His accomplishments included the production of grammars in various Indian dialects, translations of literature, and production of Bengalee dictionaries. Because of his concern for making available biblical materials, Carey also produced a dictionary for derivative dialects of Sanskrit, with synonyms corresponding to Greek and Hebrew terms. Largely through his persistence, infanticide and devotions to death at Sangur Island were prevented and he worked with equal persistence toward the goal of abolishing the practice of suttee, live immolation of widows in India, finally accomplished in 1829.

Parallel to his religious and translating activities was Dr. Carey's interest in botany. In 1812 Carey printed the Hortus Bengalensis, a catalog of plants in the gardens at Calcutta. He was also editor of a three volume work, The Flora Medica, written by Roxburgh. Carey was secretary of the Agricultural and Horticultural Society of India and one of its chief propagators.

Dr. Carey was also instrumental in establishing a leper hospital and an institution for poor and neglected Portuguese children in Calcutta, the latter established in 1809. This school was responsible for opening the first schools for female Hindi, and boys' schools at stations throughout India.

Carey retired in 1830 on a small pension, and his health began to decline from the autumn of 1833. He was bed-ridden only a month before he died, June 9, 1834, at age seventy-three. He was married three times; first to Dorothy Plackett of Piddington, 1781, secondly to Charlotte Amelia Rumohr, 1808, and to Grace Forbes, 1822, who survived him in Calcutta. He and his first wife, Dorothy, had three sons, and Carey lived long enough to see a third generation born to these sons and their children.


1 Reel of microfilm

Language of Materials


Accruals and Additions

The microfilm in this collection was purchased by the Billy Graham Center Library and donated to the Billy Graham Center Archives in May 1986.

Accession 86-56

July 30, 1986

Frances L. Brocker

J. Nasgowitz

Collection 336 Papers of William Carey
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Roman Script

Repository Details

Part of the Evangelism & Missions Archives Repository

501 College Avenue
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