PROVIDENCE -- 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.
''I just broke out in goose bumps," Phoebe Simpson, who discovered the document, said on Friday. ''It was the pure excitement of touching something that Roger Williams touched."
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's 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.
Williams had the treatise printed in England. The first edition was printed in June or July 1644 and a second edition shortly thereafter. Parliament ordered it burned, but Williams is believed to have returned to America with some copies. The society also has a copy of the second edition.
Williams was kicked out of Massachusetts for his religious beliefs and fled to what is now Providence. He made friends with the Narragansett Indian Tribe. Largely because of his beliefs, Rhode Island became a haven for those seeking refuge from persecution and repression.