I WRITE the Wonders of the CHRISTIAN RELIGION, flying from the Depravations of Europe, to the American Strand. And, assisted by the Holy Author of that Religion, I do, with all Conscience of Truth, required therein by Him, who is the Truth itself, Report the Wonderful Displays of His Infinite Power, Wisdom, Goodness, and Faithfulness, wherewith His Divine Providence hath Irradiated an Indian Wilderness.
-Introduction to Magnalia Christii Americana
Cotton Mather was born to the minister Increase Mather in Boston in 1663; he entered Harvard at the age of 12, passing the entrance exam by being able to read Latin tolerably well and conjugate a few Greek verbs, and finished with his M.A. in 1681, soon following in his father's footsteps by taking up work for the church.
Cotton Mather championed the causes of the early puritan church in America. He firmly believed in empirical observation (though just as firmly in witchcraft) as a basis for science and faith; the actions of man were dependent on the passions, which came from man's will, which ultimately stemmed from his faculties of reason.
While he had no direct role in the Salem witch trials, he attended several to act as an adviser and outside observer; many of these trials he described in various journals and sermons. They are all naturally biased against the witches, but display a remarkably calm description of testimonies. Later, he compiled these notes in the work, On the Wonders of the Invisible World, rating right up there with the Malleus Maleficarum in the history of witchcraft, persecution, and as a compendium of demonology. His sermons, which number somewhere around 400 or so, are passionate and harsh.
I won't attempt a full bibliography; it might stretch for pages, and I suppose few of you would want much more than the highlights. His magnum opus was the Magnalia Christii Americana, a history of the Church of New England.
Aside from extensive local travels, Cotton Mather lived his entire life in Boston, serving in his parish under his father, who lived until 1723. He married early on, and though he had 15 children by his wife, only 2 lived to adulthood.
Cotton Mather died in 1728.
n.b. My interest in Cotton Mather peaked some 5 years ago, when I was working on the Salem witch trials; as I've since given up the stuff except for a passing interest, I've probably forgotten much. Anyone? Bueller?