Bible Societies, associations for publishing and circulating the Bible among the people. The "Society for Propagating the Gospel in New England" bore the expense of printing Eliot's Indian Bible in 1663; the "Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge," established in 1698, published before 1800 an edition of the New Testament in Arabic, one of the Bible in Manks, and four of the Bible in Welsh, besides English Bibles, prayer books, etc. But these and other similar societies in Great Britain did not make the publication and circulation of the Bible their main work. The Canstein Bible institute (Die Cansteinsche Bibelanstalt\ founded in 1712 by the baron of Canstein, to print and circulate Bibles at a cheap rate, and forming a part of Francke's institute at Halle, Germany, issued from 1712 to 1863 5,273,623 Bibles and 2,630,000 New Testaments. The "Naval and Military Bible Society" was formed in London in 1780, to supply the British army and navy with the Bible. The French Bible society, formed in London in 1792, was prevented by the French revolution from accomplishing its object, the distribution of the Scriptures in France. A new era in Bible distribution, however, commenced with the formation of the " British and Foreign Bible Society" (1804). There had long been a great scarcity of Bibles in Wales. The last edition of 10,000 Welsh Bibles, ordered in 1796 by the society for promoting Christian knowledge, and actually published in 1799, was soon exhausted.
The Rev. Thomas Charles, of Bala, a leader among the Welsh Calvinistic Methodists, after vain efforts, first to obtain from this society another edition, and then to publish an edition by subscription, went to London in 1802, where he was introduced to the executive committee of the religious tract socisty (formed in 1799), related to them the des-;itution of Wales and his desire for a new edition of the Welsh Scriptures, and proposed to organize a society for the purpose. One of the committee, the Rev. Joseph Hughes (Baptist), replied, "Certainly; and if for Wales, why not or the world?" On this idea the committee icted. Mr. Hughes sent out a call for a meet-ing to consider the project, and the Rev. C. F. A Steinkopf (German Lutheran in London) offered to gather information concerning the destitution of the Scriptures in foreign lands, while others were to collect similar facts at home. The meeting, held at the London Tavern, March 7, 1804, consisted of about 300 of ill denominations, churchmen and dissenters, including Quakers. Dr. Steinkopf's report disclosed an unexpected state of things, and many infiuential persons present immediately lent heir cooperation to the work.
The society commenced operations with a subscribed fund of £700, and appointed a president (Lord Teign-nouth) and other officers, with an executive committee of 36 lavmen, of whom 15 were of he church of England, 15 dissenters, and 6 resi-lent foreigners. The Rev. Joseph Hughes, the Rev. Josiah Pratt (who was soon succeeded by he Rev. John Owen, both of the church of Eng-and), and Dr. Steinkopf were the secretaries, die fundamental law declares the society's ex-slusive object to be to promote the circulation of the Holy Scriptures, without note or com-nent, both at home and in foreign lands, and estricts the English copies, for circulation at lome, to the authorized version. The mem->ers pay a guinea annually, and have a discount on Bibles. The first object was to supply Wales, for which the society at once pub-lished an edition of 20,000 Bibles and 5,000 estaments. The society soon extended its la-bors to the continent, the Turkish empire, In-dia, and other parts of the world. - Roman Catholics for a time cooperated with Protes-ants in this work; but their society, formed at Ratisbon in 1805 for translating into German and circulating the Bible, was abolished by a apal bull in 1817; and another at Presburg, or circulating the Scriptures in Hungarian, was similarly dealt with.
The Russian Bible Society, authorized by an imperial ukase in [813, was suspended by the same authority in 1826, and a Protestant Bible society was established in its place. The kings of Prussia, Bavaria, Sweden, and Wurtemberg have been matrons of Bible societies. Such societies have been established in almost all parts of the civ-lized globe. The British and foreign Bible iociety alone had in 1870 4,263 auxiliaries, tranches, and associations in Great Britain connected with it, besides 527 auxiliaries and branches of the Hibernian Bible society, 1,053 mxiliaries and branches in the colonies, and numerous agencies and depots in other parts of the world. The same society has issued, up to 1872, 63,299,738 volumes, of which 3,903,067 volumes were in the last year, its entire receipts in cash for the same year being £180,-314 19s. 2d. The society had then directly promoted the translation, printing, or distribution of the Scriptures in 150 languages or dialects, and indirectly in 50 others, making 200 in all. - The first Bible society formed in the United States was the Philadelphia Bible society (1808), which was followed by the Bible societies of Connecticut (May, 1809), Massachusetts (July, 1809), New Jersey (latter part of 1809), New York city (1810), and others, to the number of 50 or 60 before 1816. The "American Bible Society " was formed in New York in May, 1816, by a convention of delegates from 35 local Bible societies and 4 from the society of Friends, making 60 persons in all.
The constitution declares: "The sole object shall be to encourage a wider circulation of the Holy Scriptures, without note or comment. The only copies in the English language, to be circulated by the society, shall be of the version now in common use." " Each subscriber of $3 annually shall be a member. Each subscriber of $30 at one time shall be a member for life. Each subscriber of $150 at one time, or who shall by one additional payment increase his original subscription to $150, shall be a director for life; but [this was added in 1872] he shall not be such director when he is in receipt of any salary, emolument, or compensation for services from the society." The original officers of the society were the Hon. Elias Boudinot, LL. D., president; 23 vice presidents; the Rev. John M. Mason, D. D., secretary for foreign correspon-denc; the Rev. John B. Romeyn, D. D., secretary for domestic correspondence; John Pintard, LL. D., recording secretary and accountant; Richard Varick, treasurer; and 36 managers. All the original officers served gratuitously. The first paid officer was John Nitchie, agent and accountant (1819), subsequently general agent and assistant treasurer.
The Rev. John C. Brigham, D. D., assistant secretary 1826-'8, and corresponding secretary 1828-'62, was in his long service almost identified with the society. The presidents since Mr. Boudinot have been the Hon. John Jay, 1821-8; the Hon. Richard Varick (first treasurer), 1828-'31; the Hon. John Cotton Smith, 1831-'45; the Hon. Theodore Frelinghuysen, 1846-'62; the Hon. Luther Bradish, 1862-'3; James Lenox, Esq.. 1864-'71; Wm. H. Allen, LL. D., 1872. The Methodist Bible society was dissolved in 1836, and since 1840 one of the secretaries has been from that denomination. The present secretaries (1873) are the Rev. Joseph Holdich, D. D., elected in 1849, and the Rev. Edward W. Gilman, elected in 1871; the treasurer is William Whitlock, jr., elected in 1840; the assistant treasurer, Andrew L. Taylor, elected in 1869; general agent, Caleb T. Rowe, elected in 1854. The society's receipts for the first year were $37,779 35, and it issued 6,410 Bibles and Testaments; for the 56th year, ending March 30, 1872, its receipts were $689,923 47, and its volumes issued (Bibles or parts of Bibles) were 1,100,871. Km- the whole 56 years, its total receipts were $14,980,881 15, and its whole number of volumes issued was 28,780,909. The receipts for the second year were the least of all, $36,-564 80; and those for the 54th year, $747,-058 60, the largest The number of volumes issued the first year, 6,410, was the smallest, and that of the 49th year, 1,830,756, the largest.
For 25 years the society was unincorporated; but the legislature of New York granted an act of incorporation March 25, 1841, and by act of April 18, 1852, granted special authority to purchase, hold, and convey its real estate on Astor place, with all buildings and improvements that might be put upon it. The society, having previously occupied various rooms for its business, erected in 1822 a building, 50 ft. front by 100 deep, long known as 115 Nassau street, and occupied it, with an addition made subsequently, till 1853. The society needing more room, the cornerstone of the "Bible House" in Astor place was laid June 29, 1852, and the new building was occupied in the early part of 1853. The edifice and ground cost about $300,000. The building covers a square of about three fourths of an acre, fronting on four streets, with an open court in the centre, is six stories high, built of brick with freestone copings, and commands attention by its magnitude and proportions. In 1847 the managers of the American Bible society found that their Bibles and those of England had many small discrepancies which embarrassed the proof-readers. A thorough collation was therefore made by the Rev. James W. McLane, I). I)., under the direction of the committee on versions, of the society's royal octavo Bible, with four leading British editions (London, Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh), and the edition of 1611. This collation, which was finished May 1, 1851, extended to all the details of typography, including orthography, capital letters, words in italics, punctuation, brackets, hyphens, etc.; and though the number of variations or discrepancies noted in the text and punctuation of the six copies compared fell but little short of 24,000, not one of the entire number marred the integrity of the text, or affected any doctrine or precept of the Bible. In reducing these variations to one uniform standard, the committee made a few changes, which they considered typographical corrections of the text, and also modernized somewhat the chapter headings and other accessories of the text; but, as this part of their work gave dissatisfaction in some quarters, the managersooneluded, m January, 1858, so far to modify the new standard as to omit every alteration which had not the sanction of previous editions.
This was accordingly done in 1858-'60, and the volumes now published by the society are considered remarkably free from errors of the press, and are conformed as nearly as possible to the best editions which have been in circulation for generations. The society does not publish the Apocrypha. Its managers are 36 laymen, belonging in 1871 to seven different denominations; and any minister of the gospel who is a member of the society may meet and vote with its board of managers. It sells and distributes its books in this country, as far as possible, through its auxiliary societies, which (1873) number about 2,000, with probably 5,000 or more branch organizations connected with them. At the 50th annual meeting in May, 1866, the society resolved to undertake without delay a third general supply of the whole country (the two previous being in 1829 and 1856), and this undertaking has been vigorously prosecuted with the intention of supplying the Bible to every family willing to receive it. The society also aids other benevolent institutions by making grants of money or books for use at home or abroad, or furnishing stereotype plates or other assistance.
It has three agencies of its own and about 55 colporteurs in foreign lands; it has for many years offered the aid requisite to publish new translations made by American missionaries of the Old Testament or the New, or any entire Gospel or other book of the Bible; it has printed the Bible, or portions of it, in about 27 new translations, besides publishing, at home or abroad, about 23 others; it has prepared and published the entire Bible in raised letters for the blind (8 folio volumes costing $20. or 16 folio volumes costing $28); and it publishes accounts of its doings in its annual reports and monthly in the "Bible Society Record." - The "American and Foreign Bible Society" was organized in New York May 13, 1836, and was incorporated by the legislature of New York April 12, 1848. It originated in a secession of the Baptists from the American Bible society, after the latter society refused aid to the Bengalee and Burmese versions made by Baptist missionaries, because in these versions the Greek word and its cognates were translated "immerse," "immersion," etc. The Rev. Spencer II. Cone, D. D., who had been a secretary of the American Bible society, was the first president of the American and Foreign Bible society, and the Rev. Charles G. Sommers, D. D., its first corresponding secretary. The constitutions of the two societies are nearly alike, except that the managers of the latter are required to be Baptists. The society has primarily aided the missionaries of the American Baptist missionary union and kindred societies in translating, revising, printing, and distributing the Scriptures in foreign lands, its surplus funds being applied, at the discretion of the managers, to Bible operations in all lands. It has employed Bible readers in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, China, Greece, etc. It publishes and circulates in this country the commonly received or King James's version. In 36 years it has collected and expended more than $1,100,000 in Bible circulaion, published the Scriptures in 40 different anguages, and circulated 4,000,000 volumes in our own and foreign lands. "The Bible Ad-vocate" is its monthly periodical.
Its officers or 1872 are the Hon. D. M. Wilson, president; he Rev. A. D. Gillette, D. D., corresponding ecretary; U. D. Ward, treasurer. - "The American Bible Union" was organized in New fork, June 10, 1850. Its object is "to procure nd circulate the most faithful versions of the acred Scriptures, in all languages, throughout he world." Its founders seceded from the American and Foreign Bible society May 23, 850, when that body decided that it was not ts province or duty to revise the English Bible, lor to procure a revision of it from others; and hat in its future issues it would only circulate he existing commonly received version. The membership is composed of voluntary contrib-utors, $30 constituting a member, $100 a direc-tor for life. The field of its operations is the world. It has aided extensively in the prepara-tion or circulation of versions made on its princi-ples, for the Chinese, Karens, Siamese, French, Spanish, Italians, Germans, and English. But he primary aim of the union is to prepare a borough and faithful revision of the common English version. To accomplish this it has em-ployed the aid of scholars of nine evangelical denominations. Though mainly composed of Baptists, it professes to act without reference denominational differences.
The principle adopted for the guidance of translators is: Express in language most readily understood by the people "'the exact meaning of the in-pired original." No views of expediency re allowed to withstand the invariable ope-ation of this rule. The New Testament has teen subjected to three consecutive revisions, he first extending through a period of eight ears, the second of four, and the third of a little more than two years. No expense has seen spared in procuring books or supplying very possible aid for the greatest perfection of the work. The book of Job has been re-ised and published under two different forms: he first embracing the common version, the lebrew, and the revised version, accompa-ued with philological notes; the second con-ined to the revision and notes for the English eader. Genesis and the Psalms have been ssued, each in a single volume, combining he notes for the scholar and the English read-r. Proverbs has lately been issued in the ame form as Job. Exodus, Joshua, Ruth, udges, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, have been revised, and the first our of these books are now (1873) undergoing evision for the press. The Bible union has also prepared a "Bible Primer" especially for he freedmen in the south.
It has made two ranslations of the Testament into the Chinese anguage, one in the character, and the other n the Ningpo colloquial. Its Spanish Testa-nent has undergone three revisions, and is now videly circulated in Spain and Mexico. Its Italian Testament is undergoing revision in Italy. The number of copies of Scriptures which it has issued, or furnished the means for issuing, in all languages, exceeds a million. - The "Bible Revision Association," organized at Memphis, Tenn., April 2, 1853, and afterward removed to Louisville, Ky., suspended operations in the early part of 1860, and passed over its books to the American Bible union. - The history of Bible societies would be incomplete without mention of the controversy with regard to the Apocrypha, in which the European societies were involved from about 1811, and which was not finally settled till 1827. The one idea of Bible societies, the circulation of the Scriptures without note or comment, had to a certain extent engaged all parties indiscriminately, and especially all parties of the reformation.
The Roman Catholic church had a different canon of Scripture from the Protestant. On the continent various causes had conspired to separate the Protestants less in this matter from the Catholics than their brethren in Great Britain. Consequently, on the continent, the Catholic canon was in use among Protestants. At first the London society had connived at this difference of sentiment, or at least had not allowed itself to interfere with its free exercise. Thus the German auxiliary societies had from the outset purchased for circulation-the Canstein Bible, in which the apocryphal books were intermingled with the canonical (Protestant). A feeling began to be manifest on this subject with greatest violence in Scotland, and the parent society therefore decided in 1811 to request its auxiliaries to leave out the Apocrypha. This request produced some feeling, and it was rescinded in 1813. The apocryphal war was thus fairly commenced; for the passing and subsequent rescinding of the resolution of 1811 brought the parties into position.
The inspiration of the apocryphal books was discussed, and the custom of the Protestant church cited, which had translated the Apocrypha, and even in the establishment appointed it "to be read in the churches." While the general sentiment was in favor of the non-inspiration of the apocryphal books, one party insisted on the propriety of their circulation, on the ground that the catalogue of the canon was not inspired, and that even the Protestant canon itself was not an article of faith, but might contain uninspired books. On the other hand, the anti-apocryphal party rigidly defined the difference between the canonical and apocryphal books, designating the apocryphal as "far below the level of many human writings, full of falsehoods, errors, superstitions, and contradictions, and the more dangerous for assuming to be a divine revelation." The Scotch party was violent, the continental unyielding. The publication of the Catholic Bible in Italian, Spanish, and Portuguese, in 1819, with the cooperation of the society, added fresh fuel to the flames.
It was thought by the Edinburgh society a violation of the net of 1813. It was urged that to publish a Bible in which the apocryphal books were made canonical, was worse than merely to publish them as apocryphal at the end of the Old Testament canon. The London society, on a revision of its course, decided it to be erroneous, and resolved, Aug. 19, 1822, that the moneys of the society should henceforth be used only in printing the canonical books, and thai if the auxiliaries published the Apocrypha, they should do it at their own expense. When, in accordance with this act, Leander Van Ess asked aid in publishing his Bible and promised to include the Apocrypha at his own expense, the society appropriated £500 for the purpose (Sept. 24, 1824). The anti-apocryphal party procured the rescinding of the act the following December, on the ground that the apocryphal books were still undistinguished from the canonical, and that therefore, although the society's money was not used to publish them, they nevertheless had the apparent sanction of inspiration by the good company in which the society allowed them to be put, by consenting to have them intermingled with the inspired books. The society, in rescinding the above act of appropriation, advanced only one step further in the apocryphal reform.
It had in the act of re-scinding declared that the money of the society might be applied to aid those editions of the Bible in which the apocryphal books were printed at the end of the canon. The anti-apocryphal party had already achieved too many victories to be satisfied with such moderate ground. The Edinburgh society now protested (Jan. 17, 1825) against this compromise of Protestantism, and procured in the following February a rescinding act which swept the records of the London society of all former acts on the subject. The matter stood now where it had before 1811, but the anti-apocryphal sentiment was conscious of its strength, and now initiated positive proceedings. A two years' contest followed, in which the ground was all reviewed, and the end of which was a resolution of the London society (May 8, 1827) that no association or individual circulating the apocryphal books should receive aid from the sooiety; that none but bound books should be distributed to the auxiliaries, and that the auxiliaries should circulate then) as received; and that all societies printing the apocryphal books should place the amount granted them for Bibles at the disposal of the parent society.
Thus ended the controversy, which threatened for a time to split the parent society itself, and which did result in the secession of many auxiliaries on the continent. Previous to this controversy, the Roman Catholic church had in many instances (especially on the continent) acted with the Protestants; but, as already mentioned, that church had abolished the Bible society of Katisbon (1817) in the midst of the contest. Meanwhile the London society continued the aid of its funds, under its successive prohibitions in reference to the Apocrypha, to the individual enterprise which still persisted, at Munich, in the circulation of the Bible. Gradually the Roman Catholic church withdrew its favor from an enterprise that refused its aid in the circulation of that which she deemed the canon of Scripture, until, from the cooperation which had characterized the early history of Bible societies, the movement became essentially Protestant. - When the British and Foreign Bible society was formed, there was a great destitution of the Bible in all countries; the Bible had been printed and circulated in only 47 languages and dialects; but since 1804 more than 100,000,000 Bibles, New Testaments, and portions of the Bible have been issued by Bible societies; and the Scriptures are now circulated among nearly all the nations of the earth, and in more than 200 different languages and dialects. - Before the invention of printing the Bible was the most expensive book in the world, costing in England, in the 13th century, £30 a copy.
At the time of the American revolution the cheapest Bibles were valued at not less than $2 a volume. For some years (1844-'53) the American Bible society sold its nonpareil Bible without references at 25 cents a copy, and its pocket pearl Testament at 6 1/4 cents; and now (1873) this cheapest Bible is sold at 40 cents, and this cheapest Testament at 10 cents. It is a principle of the society to make the prices of Bibles and Testaments as low as possible.