Constitutional Emergency



THE HOLY SCRIPTURES OF OUR WAR FOR VIRTUE, LIBERTY, AND INDEPENDENCE
The Holy Scriptures


--- Chaplain Thomas G. Cole ---

Although the first Bible printed in America was done in the native Algonquin Indian Language (by John Eliot in 1663), the first
English language
Bible to be printed in America (by Robert Aitken in 1782) was a King
James Version. In
1791, Isaac Collins vastly improved upon the quality and size of the
typesetting of
American Bibles and produced the first "Family Bible" printed in
America...also a
King James Version. Also in 1791, Isaiah Thomas published the first
Illustrated Bible
printed in America...in the King James Version.


THE PRESERVED WITHOUT ERROR THE HOLY SCRIPTURES OF THE AMERICAN WAR FOR INDEPENDENCE



THE HOLY BIBLE OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION:


The 1782 Aitken Bible:
The First English Bible Printed in America

A leaf from the first Bible printed in the English language in America. These leaves are 224 years old. Called “The Bible of the
Revolution”,
Robert Aitken’s little Bible was small enough to fit into the
coat
pocket of the Revolutionary War soldiers. The leaves measure
only 6 inches
tall by almost 4 inches wide. The only Bible printing ever
called for
by an act of the United States Congress; this King James Version
Bible
helped meet the need for scriptures while England refused to
allow their
Bibles to be imported by the rebellious colonists, during the
embargo
of the Revolutionary War.

These little treasures also come with a lovely black leather,
gold-stamped,
numbered limited-edition presentation book detailing their
history, and
containing their Certificate of Authenticity. The book shows
what many
of the other pages of the Aitken Bible looked like, offers a
great historical
overview of this “Bible of the Revolution”, shows the entry
in the Journals of Congress calling for the printing to be done,
and also
offers the text of George Washington’s letter, commending Robert

Aitken for helping to meet American soldiers’ need for Bibles,
and
being the first to print an English Bible in America.

As a curious side note: Robert Aitken’s daughter, Jane Aitken, went on to become the first woman in the history of the world to ever
print a Bible. Jane published a translation into English done by
the Secretary
of the United States Congress, which was itself actually the
first non-King
James version English language Bible ever printed in America (or
the Western
Hemisphere for that matter).

Robert Aitken’s Bible was printed at his Philadelphia print
shop,
using an early American movable-type press. The paper stock is a
thick
grade of wood-pulp paper, as cotton was deemed to be too
expensive for
this production. We also have beautiful frames

available for these leaves. Imagine …having a leaf from the
first
English Bible printed in America: The 1782 Aitken Bible
1782 Aitken Bible Page,Bible of the American Revolution

Current
Price or Minimum Bid:
$99.00
Shipping: $6.95
Total Cost: $105.95

Time Left:
Item Location: Hagerstown, Maryland, US


Item Specifics:
  • Binding:
    Leaf
  • Category: Religion & Spirituality
  • Printing Year: 17820000
  • Sub-Category: Christianity, Bibles
  • Special
    Attributes: 1st Edition
  • Returns Accepted: Returns Accepted
  • Item
    must be returned within: 3 Days
  • Refund will be given as: Merchandise Credit
  • Return shipping will be paid by: Buyer

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Description

1782 Aitken Bible
An Original Leaf
Bible of the American Revolution

first edition

Title: An Original Leaf from the First Bible Printed in English in America

Full Title: An Original Leaf from the First Bible Printed in English in America; Printed by Robert Aitken New Testament Printed in 1781, Old Testament Printed in 1782, Psalms in
Metre printed in 1783 MCMXCV.

Author: Robert Dearden, Jr. & Douglas Watson

Publisher: Jonathan Byrd’s Rare Books and Bibles, Greenwood, IN

Year: 1995

Binding: Bound in light blue glossy paper (hardcover) with gilt title and accent on front cover

Condition: Book New, Leaf Good

Description: Accompanied by a random original leaf from our collection. Requested leaves at additional cost, subject to available inventory. Also includes
Certificate of Authenticity from the Christian Heritage Museum. This
book is a Limited Edition (1000 copies) reproduction of a 1930s work
which chronicled the history surrounding the first English Bible printed
in the United States of America—the Bible printed by Robert Aitken of
Philadelphia. Original 1930s title included and reads, “An Original
Leaf from the Bible of the Revolution and An Essay Concerning It by
Robert R. Dearden Jr. and Douglas S. Watson.” This copy includes color
facsimiles of Aitken’s title pages.

Contents: Contents page lists: Title page of the Aitken Bible, Title Page of Aitken’s Psalms in Metre, Signature of Robert Aitken, Mark of Robert Aitken Used on Verso of Title
Leaf to the Bible, An Original Leaf from the Aitken Bible, Second Title
Page in the Aitken Bible, Portrait of Robert Aitken by Charles Wilson
Peale, The Bible of the Revolution An Essay by Robert R. Dearden Jr. and
Douglas Watson, The Coffee House in Philadelphia in Robert Aitken’s
Time, Portrait of General Washington, A Note on the Typography of the
Period by Edwin E. Grabhorn.

History: No one had been legally allowed to print the Bible in America while it was still under the rule of Great Britain—this was the job of the king’s printers—but after its
independence American printers could begin to produce their own copies
of the Scriptures. Aitken is credited with being the first to do so,
and he petitioned Congress for $10,000 with which to complete the
project. Although the funds were approved, it appears that Aitken was
never reimbursed for his work and he became poor. However, his daughter
took up the printing trade as well, and became the first American woman
to print the Bible—a Bible translated by Charles Thomson, Secretary to
the United States Congress.

Question please call toll free 877-313-9002 or e-mail us at info@historicprints.com or info@ChristianHeritageMuseum.com

Contact us at info@christianheritagemuseum.com or info@historicprints.com

14111 Pennsylvania Avenue
Hagerstown, Maryland 21742
Direct – 240-313-9000
Toll Free – 877-313-9002

Thank you for visiting our listings!






14111 Pennsylvania Avenue Hagerstown, Maryland 21742 • 877-313-9002 • info@christianheritagemuseum.cominfo@historicprints.com






  • B

    The 1782 Aitken Bible:
    The First English Bible Printed in America

    A leaf from the first Bible printed in the English language in America. These leaves are 224 years old. Called “The Bible of the
    Revolution”,
    Robert Aitken’s little Bible was small enough to fit into the
    coat
    pocket of the Revolutionary War soldiers. The leaves measure
    only 6 inches
    tall by almost 4 inches wide. The only Bible printing ever
    called for
    by an act of the United States Congress; this King James Version
    Bible
    helped meet the need for scriptures while England refused to
    allow their
    Bibles to be imported by the rebellious colonists, during the
    embargo
    of the Revolutionary War.

    These little treasures also come with a lovely black leather,
    gold-stamped,
    numbered limited-edition presentation book detailing their
    history, and
    containing their Certificate of Authenticity. The book shows
    what many
    of the other pages of the Aitken Bible looked like, offers a
    great historical
    overview of this “Bible of the Revolution”, shows the entry
    in the Journals of Congress calling for the printing to be done,
    and also
    offers the text of George Washington’s letter, commending Robert

    Aitken for helping to meet American soldiers’ need for Bibles,
    and
    being the first to print an English Bible in America.

    As a curious side note: Robert Aitken’s daughter, Jane Aitken, went on to become the first woman in the history of the world to ever
    print a Bible. Jane published a translation into English done by
    the Secretary
    of the United States Congress, which was itself actually the
    first non-King
    James version English language Bible ever printed in America (or
    the Western
    Hemisphere for that matter).

    Robert Aitken’s Bible was printed at his Philadelphia print
    shop,
    using an early American movable-type press. The paper stock is a
    thick
    grade of wood-pulp paper, as cotton was deemed to be too
    expensive for
    this production. We also have beautiful frames

    available for these leaves. Imagine …having a leaf from the
    first
    English Bible printed in America: The 1782 Aitken Bible
  • The First American Bible
    (An Historical Preface)


    Margaret T. Hills
    Former Secretary for Research of The American Bible Society 1968 Arno Press




    The War of the American Revolution had entered its third year. Since the fateful firing of the "first shot" on Lexington Green, the Continental Congress,
    sitting in
    Philadelphia, had been required to make many crucial decisions, both
    military and
    political. Now, in July 1777, a petition signed by three clergymen was
    placed before that
    dedicated body of colonial representatives calling for a determination
    of an entirely
    different nature.





    To the honourable Continental Congress of the United States of North America now sitting in Philadelphia.


    Honoured Gentlemen


    We the Ministers of the Gospel of Christ in the City of Philadelphia, whose names are under written, taking it into our serious consideration 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, that 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 publick 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 honourable 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, But unless the sale of the whole edition belong to the
    printer, and he be bound under sufficient penalties, that no copy be
    sold by him, nor by
    any retailer under him, at a higher price than that allowed by this
    honourable house, we
    fear that the whole impression would soon be bought up, and sold again
    at an exorbitant
    price, which would frustrate your pious endeavours and fill the country
    with just
    complaints.


    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 save much money to the United States;
    would be the
    means of promoting Christian knowledge in our churches, and would
    transmit your names with
    additional honour to the latest posterity.


    Our sincere prayers shall ever be for your welfare and prosperity, and we beg leave with the greatest respect to subscribe our selves


    Honoured Gentlemen
    Your most obedient humble servants
    Francis

    Alison
    John Ewing
    William Marshalle




    Referred to a committee composed of John Adams, Daniel Roberdeau and Jonathan Bayard Smith, the petition was not reported upon until September 11th. On that
    day, General Washington was fighting the Battle of the Brandywine and
    General John
    Burgoyne was on his way toward Saratoga. Before long, Philadelphia would
    he occupied by
    the troops of General Sir William Howe and Congress itself would flee to
    Lancaster and
    then to York.


    In its report, the committee stated 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 . . ." It recommended, therefore,
    that Congress
    "order the committee of commerce to import 20,000 bibles from Holland,
    Scotland or
    elsewhere into the different ports of the states of the Union."


    When the motion carried by the narrowest of margins, seven to six, a subsequent motion was immediately passed ordering "that the consideration thereof be
    postponed to Saturday next." However, since nothing more is known
    concerning this
    resolution, it is doubted whether the beleaguered Congress ever took
    steps to effect its
    implementation.


    Isaiah Thomas, the first historian of American printing, reported that by 1775 there were fifty presses in the Colonies. Why then should the
    proposal of three
    Philadelphia clergymen receive such careful consideration from a
    Continental Congress
    harassed by the demands of a war whose tide had yet to be turned from
    overwhelming defeat
    to victory?


    Prior to the War of the Revolution, there had been no publication of the English Bible in the Colonies. All demands for Scriptures had to be met by importation
    from England and the Continent. It is true, of course, that there was a
    scarcity of the
    type and paper necessary for the successful publication of a book as
    large as the Bible.
    Most of the presses were used for the impression of documents,
    proclamations, pamphlets
    and papers. But there was a far more serious consideration that kept it
    from being printed
    by an American printer. It was, in fact, illegal for any printer in the
    Colonies to
    produce the English Bible.


    Publication of the Scriptures in any lands under the British crown was restricted; in order to insure accuracy in printing, to the Oxford and
    Cambridge
    University Presses and to one other printer licensed by the king. In
    Scotland, special
    licenses were required.


    There is, however, the fascinating story that an edition of the English Bible and several Testaments were printed in Boston about 1750. But no
    copy has ever been
    satisfactorily identified, for the paper and type would have been
    imported and, according
    to the story, a British imprint was employed.


    While the Royal License applied only to the publication of the text of the King James Bible, without comment, there seems to have been
    no restriction on
    annotated editions. But these publications were usually large and
    elaborate, filled with
    engravings. They were, consequently, expensive and had to be financed by
    subscription.
    Several such projects had been proposed in the Colonies but had
    foundered for lack of
    support.


    Also, inasmuch as the restriction did not apply to the printing of Bible translations, a complete translation by John Eliot, printed in Cambridge,
    Massachusetts, in 1663 for the Indians of that area, and three editions
    of the German
    Bible, printed by Christopher Saur and his sons in Germantown,
    Pennsylvania, in 1743, 1763
    and I 776, were the only known publications of the Holy Bible in
    colonial America until
    the closing years of the War of the Revolution.


    In 1780, another motion pertaining to the printing of the Scriptures was made in Congress:


    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.


    Introduced by James McLene of Pennsylvania and seconded by John Hanson of Maryland, nothing more substantial is known to have developed from
    this recommendation
    than resulted from the clerical petition three years earlier. However,
    on January 21,
    1781, it seemed at last to have been an opportune time for Robert Aitken
    to present the
    following memorial to Congress:


    To the Honourable The Congress
    of the United States of America
    The Memorial of Robert Aitken
    of the City of Philadelphia, Printer



    Humbly Sheweth


    That 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 Honours 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 Honours would
    take this important
    matter into serious consideration & would be pleased to appoint one
    Member or Members
    of your Honourable 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.




    Robert Aitken was no stranger to the respected gentlemen of Congress. In January 1776, he began printing the journals of Congress, and when, in December of that
    year, the Continental Congress retreated to Baltimore, they sent an
    "express" to
    him requesting that he bring his press and utensils at public expense to
    Baltimore where
    he might locate and continue his engagement with Congress. But Aitken
    decided to remain in
    Philadelphia where he had settled after arriving from Scotland in 1769.


    Born in Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, in 1734 (or 1735), Aitken had learned the art of bookbinding and gone into the book business in Paisley. When
    he was about
    thirty-five years old, he left his wife and three children behind while
    he came to America
    to investigate the prospects of publishing and selling books here.


    Shortly after his arrival in Philadelphia, he advertised for sale, for ready money only, a long list of "the very best books" and ordered
    printed two
    books -- a Shorter Catechism and A Dialogue between Jockey and
    Maggy, or How to
    Court a Country Girl.
    These appeared with his imprint (but without
    printer
    identification) in 1770. Evidently satisfied with the outlook, he
    returned home to
    Scotland in November and by May 10, 1771, was back in Philadelphia with
    his wife, Janet,
    and two children, Jane and Robert, Jr., his third child having died
    while he was in
    America.


    Aitken set up shop in Philadelphia on Front Street, nearly opposite the London Coffee H6use, with stock he had purchased for fifty pounds. The
    list of stock as of
    June 11, 1771, is shown in his "Waste Book", a large folio (now with the
    Pennsylvania Historical Society) which covers his accounts from 1771 to
    1802. The
    wide-ranging list includes, in addition to books and stationery items,
    yard goods, silver
    knee buckles, needle cases, a bird cage, six gilt school Bibles at five
    shillings, and
    twelve Pocket School Bibles at six shillings three pence. He thus
    established himself in
    Philadelphia as a bookseller and soon thereafter as a publisher and
    binder.


    In January 1775, he began publication of a sophisticated monthly, The Pennsylvania


    Magazine,
    with Thomas Paine as editor and a subscription list of
    six
    hundred. Each issue was a large octavo-size magazine of forty-eight
    pages, and it has been
    described as one of the most attractive of early American periodicals.


    It was in 1777 that Aitken decided to test the market with a New Testament, a small book of ~ pages, measuring five and a half by three and an eighth
    inches. Other editions of 1778 and 1779 are recorded but according to The



    English Bible
    in America,
    no copies are known to he in existence. Subsequently,
    other publishers in
    America followed his lead with their editions of New Testaments:


  • 1779 Isaac Collins, Trenton
  • 1780 Thomas and Fleet, Boston
  • Hall and Sellers, Philadelphia
  • Francis Bailey, Philadelphia
  • Isaac Collins, Trenton
  • 1781 James Adams, Wilmington, Delaware

While Aitken's "Waste Book" shows sales of Testaments in the last few days of August 1777, there are no more entries until after the British had left
Philadelphia in June of 1778. Then, on July 18th, he advertised in the Pennsylvania
Evening



Post a
new "neat" edition of the New Testament, just published, and
sales reappear in this "Waste Book".


Robert Aitken's memorial to Congress for aid in printing the Bible was referred on January 26, 1781, to "the committee on the Motion for
Printing the Old
and New Testament," but it was some months before any action was taken
on it. In the
meantime, in the autumn of that same year, Aitken petitioned the General
Assembly of the
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to render him monetary assistance. After a
prolonged series
of delays, on March 15, 1782, it was resolved by that body --



That the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds, be given on loan, to the said Robert Aitken, in small sums, and at such times as will be most
convenient for paying
the same, free of interest, for the space of one year, from the date of
the receipt of
such sum or sums as he may receive.





Ironically, it is not recorded whether Robert Aitken ever took advantage of this long-sought-after offer of assistance.


On September 1, 1782, the committee appointed by Congress to consider Aitken's project, having learned the completed Bible was almost ready for publication, at
last took action by requesting the Chaplains of Congress to examine the
proposed edition
for accuracy.


The two Chaplains of Congress were distinguished citizens of Philadelphia. The Rev. Dr. William White, rector of Christ Church, was instrumental in
organizing the Protestant Episcopal Church in America and later became
the first president
of the Bible Society of Philadelphia, the first Bible Society
established in the United
States. The other chaplain, the Rev. George Duffield, was pastor of the
Third Presbyterian
Church in Philadelphia and after the war was to be one of the leaders in
the formation of
the Presbyterian Church in the United States.


But before the report of the Chaplains was received, Aitken himself sent another memorial to Congress. Dated September 9th, it declared that his Bible,
"accomplished in the midst of the Confusion and Distresses of War," had
at last
been completed. In seeking the aid of Congress, he suggested their
purchase of a portion
of the edition on the account of the United States: "One Fourth of it
will Amount to
200 Bibles for each State..."


The Chaplains of Congress, Dr. White and Mr. Duffield, made their report on September 10, 1782. Two days later, on the 12th, the Committee reported to
Congress, submitting copies of both their request to the Chaplains and
the Chaplains'
report. The same day Congress approved the "pious and laudable
undertaking of Mr.
Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion, as well as an
instance of the progress
of arts in this country," and recommended his Bible to the American
people,
graciously authorizing him to publish the recommendation "in any manner
he shall
think proper."


Aitken thought it proper to print the three documents in his Bible, immediately following the title page, as the reader will discover in the facsimile to
which this essay serves as an introduction.


Aitken's Bible was not issued until September 25th when he sent a special copy to John Hanson, then president of the Congress, for the use of that body and
as an example of the work they had honored with their patronage. On the
same day, he
placed an advertisement of his Bible, just below the full text of the
action of the
Congress and the Committee reports, in the Freeman's Journal, a
periodical
established in 1781 whose masthead claimed that it was "Open to all
parties but
influenced by none."


The first English Bible printed in this country, as well as the first Bible to be recommended to the people by the Congress of the United States, was relatively
small in dimensions. It measured but five and five-eighths inches by
three and one-eighth
inches. Printed in brevier type on American-made paper, it contained 726
leaves (1,452
pages). It is considered to be an excellent piece of printing with
remarkably few divided
words and with pages unmarred by "rivers" of blank space.


The edition consisted of ten thousand copies in which, as was the custom in small King James version Bibles, the books of the Apocrypha were omitted. The
graceful title page carried the coat of arms of Pennsylvania and the New
Testament showed
Robert Aitken's initials, R.A., in script letters below the Order of
Books on the back of
the title page.


When the Aitken Bible was issued, the War of the Revolution was nearing its end. In 1783, Dr. John Rodgers, pastor of the First Presbyterian
Church in New York,
wrote to General Washington suggesting that copies of Aitken's Bible be
presented to each
of the soldiers in the army when they were discharged. General
Washington replied that
this worthy suggestion came too late, for Congress had already ordered
the discharge of
two-thirds of the army. He added:



It would have pleased me well, if Congress had been pleased to make such an important present to the brave fellows who have done so much for
the security of
their country's rights and establishment.





With the cessation of hostilities, trade was soon renewed with Britain and the Continent. For Robert Aitken it meant that the sale of his Bible
would be
challenged by the importation of less expensive and more attractive
copies of the
Scriptures. And despite the efforts of his Presbyterian friends to
encourage the exclusive
purchase of his Bible within the Synod of New York and Philadelphia; his
"Waste
Book" records for the ensuing years indicate relatively small returns
from their
distribution.


Nevertheless, Aitken continued in the book business often producing very fine examples of the binder's art he had learned as a youth in Scotland. In 1785, be
began a publication of the Transactions of the American Philosophical
Society,
for
which he and his daughter also produced many special bindings. Many
years later, in 1808,
Jane Aitken was to publish a four-volume Bible which contained the
translation of the
Greek Septuagint Old Testament by Charles Thomson after his retirement
as secretary of
Congress in 1789-the first translation of that Greek text into English
ever made.


In 1789, Aitken appealed to Congress for a patent for the exclusive right to print Bibles in America for fourteen years. It was denied. By that time, a number
of American printers were publishing Testaments, and in 1790 the
Rheims-Douay Bible of
Mathew Carey and a smaller Bible by William Young were published, both
in Philadelphia. In
1791, Isaiah Thomas at Worcester and Isaac Collins at Trenton began
their series of fine
editions, and the American printing trade was well launched into the
publication of the
Scriptures. By 1800, there had been printed twenty-four editions of the
whole English
Bible and forty-eight of the New Testament, mostly in Philadelphia,
Boston, Trenton,
Wilmington, New York and Worcester.


The sad picture of Robert Aitken's financial status a decade after his first memorial to Congress can be glimpsed in a communication he sent in
1791 to John
Nicholson, at that time Receiver of general taxes for the state of
Pennsylvania:


I have calculated from my true loss by Continental money 3,000
and
on the Edition of 10,000 Bibles 4000 -- owing to these you may readily
figure my
situation. My house is under mortgage for a considerable sum, a foreign
debt, though not
of its value. I have other debts........................................


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