Philadelphia: Printed by Jane Aitken, 1808.
First edition. ; ; ; pp. 4 vols. 8vo. Rare American Bible in Contemporary Full Black Morocco – Printed and Likely Bound by Jane Aitken. Contemporary full black morocco gil, likely bound by Jane Aitken, minor wear at joints, one spine splitting but holding Darlow & Moule 1005; Herbert 1514; Rumball-Petre 184; O'Callaghan 1808.2; Wright, p.113; Hills 153; Thomas, History of Printing in America, p.402. Item #354112
"Charles Thomson (1729-1824) made the first translation of the Septuagint into the English language, and the first English translation of the New Testament in the western hemisphere. Thomson spent twenty years in making the translation. The books called Apocrypha, which are included in the canon of the Greek Old Testament but not in the Hebrew, were omitted in his translation. After copying the manuscript four times, he had it published at Philadelphia by Jane Aitken, the first woman to print any part of the Holy Scriptures in America, and the daughter of the printer Robert Aitken. It is of interest that the name 'Cha. Thomson' appears as the signer of the Congressional resolution in the front of the 1782 Aiken Bible" (Hills).
Charles Thomson emigrated to America from his native Ireland in 1739. On recommendation of Benjamin Franklin, he served as a tutor at the College of Pennsylvania (later the University of Pennsylvania). He later left teaching for business, in which he prospered. "Because of his reputation for fairness and integrity, he was chosen by the Indians to keep their record of proceedings at the treaty of Easton (1757), and in the following year he was adopted into the Delaware tribe, with a name meaning `man who tells the truth'" (DAB). He was an early and ardent supporter of the Revolution and was unanimously elected Secretary to the Continental Congress, serving in that post from 1774 to 1789. Thomson "was the very man in Philadelphia with whom John Adams, busily probing the minds of all and sundry on the vital questions involved, would wish to have, as he did have, 'much conversation.' 'This Charles Thomson,' Adams wrote, 'is the Sam Adams of Philadelphia, the life of the cause of liberty, they say.'" (DAB). Thomson resigned his post when he was offered no part in Washington's inauguration ceremonies nor any post in the new administration. He devoted the next twenty years to his monumental translation.
Jane Aitken continued her father Robert's business after his death in 1802. "She had in 1810 a printing house in Philadelphia. She obtained much reputation by the productions which issued from her press" (Thomas). In addition to being one of the first American female printers, Jane Aitken was also a bookseller, bookbinder, businesswoman, and employer. The typeface Aitken used for the Thomson Bible was an attractive and utilitarian type developed in 1796 by two Scotsmen, Binney and Ronaldson, at their Philadelphia type foundry. The Thomson Bible is considered her greatest printing achievement and the first Bible printed by a woman in America.
This set in a very unusual American full morocco gilt binding, likely bound by Aitken's shop. See Spawn, Willman, and Carol Spawn, “The Aitken Shop: Identification of an Eighteenth-Century Bindery and Its Tools” in The Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, vol. 57, no. 4, 1963, pp. 422–37.
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