n colonial America, Bibles had to be imported from Britain as the British government strictly regulated the printing of religious materials.
It was illegal to print Bibles in the English language without a license from the King
Queen Elizabeth I had granted Christopher Barker the title of Royal Printer
, with the exclusive "perpetual royal privilege" to print Bibles in England.
, assumed the position of
the King's Printer
with the sole permission to print the
King's "Authorized Version
to print revised editions, and in 1633, so did a
printer in Scotland.
The Revolutionary War
interrupted trade between the American colonies
and the King's "authorized printers" in Britain, resulting in shortages of the
King James Authorized Version,
which was used extensively by clergy, courts of justice and in education.
In July of 1777, three prominent clergymen signed a petition to the Continental Congress:
"To the honorable Continental Congress of the United States of North America now sitting in Philadelphia.
Honored Gentlemen, We the Ministers of the Gospel of Christ in the City of Philadelphia, whose names are under written, taking it into our
that in our present circumstances, books in general, and in particular,
the Holy Scriptures contained in the Old and New Testaments are growing so scarce and dear,
we greatly fear
that unless timely care be used to prevent it,
we shall not have Bibles for our schools
and families, and for the public worship of God in our churches.
We therefore think it our duty to our country and to the churches of Christ to lay this danger before this honorable house,
humbly requesting that under your care, and by your encouragement,
a copy of the Holy Bible may be printed
, so as to be sold nearly as cheap as the common Bibles,
formerly imported from Britain
and Ireland, were sold.
The number of purchasers is so great, that we doubt not but a large impression would soon be sold...
We are persuaded that your care and seasonable interposition will remove the anxious fears of many pious and well disposed persons; would prevent the murmurs of the discontented... would be
the means of promoting Christian knowledge in our churches
Our sincere prayers shall ever be for your welfare and prosperity, and we beg leave with the greatest respect to subscribe our selves.
Honored Gentlemen, Your most obedient humble servants,
(a founder of Univ. of Pennsylvania & Univ. of Delaware),
(provost of Univ. of Pennsylvania),
(Scots Presbyterian Church, Assoc. Presbytery of Penn.)
America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations
Chaplain of Congress, Patrick Allison
, Pastor of Philadelphia's First Presbyterian Church, brought the issue to the attention of the
, which referred it to a
, Daniel Roberdeau and Jonathan Bayard Smith.
reported to the
, September 11, 1777, that it had:
"...conferred fully with the printers, etc., in this city and are of the opinion, that the
proper types for printing the Bible are not to be had in this country
, and that the
paper cannot be procured
, but with such difficulties and subject to such casualties as render any dependence on it altogether improper..."
"The use of the Bible is so universal and its importance so great that
your committee refers the above to the consideration of Congress
The Committee recommends that Congress will order the Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles from Holland, Scotland, or elsewhere
, into the different parts of the States of the Union.
it was resolved
to direct said Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 copies of the Bible
That same day, September 11, 1777, Washington's troops lost the
Battle of Brandywine
, retreating eventually to
, and British General John Burgoyne's troops were marching down from Canada.
In a panic,
the Continental Congress evacuated Philadelphia
before action could be taken on
the Bible resolution
, fleeing to the City of Lancaster, then to York, Pennsylvania.
On September 26, 1777,
British General William Howe
expected this would end the war, as the tradition in European warfare was that when a country's capital was captured they would surrender.
DVD Vol. 1- Miracles in American History (Episodes 1-10)
The war continued, though, and
in 1780 another motion was presented to Congress pertaining to the printing of Bibles
by James McLene, a delegate from Pennsylvania, and seconded by John Hanson, a delegate from Maryland:
"Resolved: That it be recommended to such of the States who may think it convenient for them that they take proper measures
to procure one or more new and correct editions of the Old and New Testament to be printed
and that such states regulate their printers by law so as to secure effectually the said books from being misprinted."
On January 21, 1781,
"Memorial" petition to Congress to publish the Bible
"To the Honorable The Congress of the United States of America -
The Memorial of Robert Aitken of the City of Philadelphia, Printer
in every well regulated Government
in Christendom, The Sacred Books of the Old and New Testament, commonly called
the Holy Bible, are printed and published under the Authority of the Sovereign Powers
, in order to prevent the fatal confusion that would arise, and the
alarming Injuries the Christian Faith might suffer from the spurious and erroneous editions of Divine Revelation
"That your Memorialist has no doubt but this work is an object worthy
the attention of the Congress of the United States of America
, who will not neglect spiritual security, while they are virtuously contending for temporal blessings.
Under this persuasion your Memorialist begs leave to, inform your Honors that he both begun and made considerable progress in a neat edition of the Holy Scriptures for the use of schools, but being cautious of
suffering his copy of the Bible to issue forth without the sanction of Congress
humbly prays that your Honors would take this important matter into serious consideration & would be pleased to appoint one Member or Members of your Honorable Body to inspect his work so that the same may be published under the Authority of Congress.
And further, your Memorialist prays, that
he may be commissioned or otherwise appointed & authorized to print and vend editions of, the Sacred Scriptures
, in such manner and form as may best suit the wants and
demands of the good people of these States
, provided the same be in all things perfectly consonant to the Scriptures as heretofore Established and received amongst us."
, a Scottish immigrant,
printed The Pennsylvania Magazine
, which had 600 subscribers,
with Thomas Paine as editor.
In January of 1776,
printing the journals of the Continental Congress
In early September, 1782,
sent a message to Congress informing them he
had nearly completed his Bible, "accomplished in the midst of the Confusion and Distresses of War."
the Chaplains of Congress
"REPORT OF COMMITTEE OF CONGRESS ON MR. AITKEN'S MEMORIAL
By The United States Congress Assembled:
September 12th, 1782.
THE Committee to whom was referred a Memorial of Robert Aitken, Printer, dated 21st January, 1781, respecting an edition of the Holy Scriptures, report,
has, at a great expense, now
finished an American edition of the Holy Scriptures in English
, that the Committee have from time to time attended to his progress in the work;
that they also recommended it to the two Chaplains of Congress to examine and give their opinion of the execution, who have accordingly reported thereon; the recommendation and report being as follows:
'Philadelphia, 1st September, 1782.
OUR knowledge of your piety and public spirit leads us without apology
to recommend to your particular attention the edition of the Holy Scriptures publishing by Mr. Aitken
He undertook this expensive work at a time when,
from the circumstances of the war, an English edition of the Bible could not be imported
, nor any opinion formed how long the obstruction might continue.
On this account particularly he deserves applause and encouragement.
We therefore wish you, Reverend Gentlemen, to examine the execution of the work, and if approved, to give it the sanction of your judgment, and the weight of your recommendation.
We are, with very great respect, Your most obedient humble servants.
(Sign'd) JAMES DUANE, Chairman in behalf of a Committee of Congress on Mr. Aitken's Memorial.'"
The two Chaplains of Congress at this time were:
Rev. George Duffield
, pastor of the
Third Presbyterian Church
in Philadelphia, who helped form the Presbyterian Church in the United States;
Rev. William White
, rector of Christ Church, who helped organize
the Protestant Episcopal Church in America
and was the
first president of the Bible Society of Philadelphia
- the first Bible Society in the United States.
reported to Congress, September 10, 1782:
"REPORT OF THE CONGRESSIONAL CHAPLAINS
Reverend Doct. White and Revd. Mr. Duffield,
Chaplains of the United States in Congress assembled.
AGREEABLY to your desire we have paid attention to
Mr. Robert Aitken's impression of the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testament.
Having selected and examined a variety of passages throughout the work, we are of opinion that it is executed with great accuracy as to the sense, and with as few grammatical and typographical errors as could be expected in an undertaking of such magnitude.
Being ourselves witnesses of the demand of
this invaluable book
, we rejoice in this present prospect of a supply; hoping that it will prove as advantageous as it is honorable to the Gentleman, who has exerted himself to furnish it, at the evident risque of private fortune.
Your very respectful and humble servants,
(Sign'd) William White, George Duffield.
Philadelphia, September 10th, 1782."
On September 12, 1782,
Congress approved of Robert Aitken's printing of the Bible.
"The Bible of the Revolution"
the first English-language Bible printed in America
only Bible ever authorized by an act of Congress
"ENDORSEMENT OF CONGRESS
Honble James Duane, Esq. Chairman, and the other Honble Gentlemen of the Committee of Congress on Mr. Aitken's Memorial.
the United States in Congress
approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken
, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an influence of the progress of arts in this country, and being satisfied from the above report of his care and accuracy in the execution of the work,
they recommend this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States
, and hereby
authorize him to publish this Recommendation
in the manner he shall think Proper.
CHA. THOMSON, Sec'ry."
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Robert Aitkens' "Bible of the Revolution"
is one of the rarest books.
In 1940, the Rev. Edwin A.R. Rumball-Petre located 28 copies of the
"Bible of the Revolution"
in institutions in America and abroad, and 22 in private collections.
"The Bible of the Revolution"
are in the possession of the
American Bible Society's Museum of Biblical Art in New York
Houston Baptist University's Dunham Bible Museum
Hobby Lobby's Green Family
, who are opening the
Museum of the Bible
in Washington, D.C. to display The Green Collection -
the world's largest private collection of rare biblical texts and artifacts
Congress' endorsement of
Robert Aitken's Bible
was signed by the
Secretary of Congress Charles Thomson
, who had also
signed the Declaration of Independence with John Hancock
on July 4, 1776.
, with William Barton,
designed the Great Seal of the United States
retired from Congress, he
spent 19 years researching and writing his "Thomson Bible,'
" a four-volume work containing the
first American translation of the Greek Septuagint
Charles Thomson's Bible
was printed in 1808 by
Jane Aitken, the daughter of Robert Aitken
, who had taken over her father's printing business when he died on JULY 15, 1802.
This made America's
Jane Aitken the first woman ever to print the Bible