Cover image for An American Bible : a history of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880
Title:
An American Bible : a history of the Good Book in the United States, 1777-1880
Author:
Gutjahr, Paul C.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Stanford, Calif. : Stanford University Press, [1999]

©1999
Physical Description:
xv, 256 pages : illustrations, maps ; 27 cm
Language:
English
ISBN:
9780804734257
Format :
Book

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BS447.5.U6 G88 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
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Summary

Summary

" An American Bible is an extremely compelling piece of cultural history that succeeds in making rich rather than schematic sense of the major dramas that lay behind the production of over 1,700 different American editions of the Bible in the century after the American Revolution. Gutjahr's book is especially powerful in demonstrating how nineteenth-century efforts to purge the Bible of textual and translational impurities in search of an 'authentic' text led ironically to the emergence of entirely new gospels like the Book of Mormon and the massive fictionalized literature dealing with the life of Christ."

--Jay Fliegelman,

Stanford University

During the first three-quarters of the nineteenth century, American publishing experienced unprecedented, exponential growth. An emerging market economy, widespread religious revival, educational reforms, and innovations in print technology worked together to create a culture increasingly formed and framed by the power of print. At the center of this new culture was the Bible, the book that has been called " the best seller" in American publishing history. Yet it is important to realize that the Bible in America was not a simple, uniform entity. First printed in the United States during the American Revolution, the Bible underwent many revisions, translations, and changes in format as different editors and publishers appropriated it to meet a wide range of changing ideological and economic demands.

This book examines how many different constituencies (both secular and religious) fought to keep the Bible the preeminent text in the United States as the country's print marketplace experienced explosive growth. The author shows how these heated battles had profound consequences for many American cultural practices and forms of printed material. By exploring how publishers, clergymen, politicians, educators, and lay persons met the threat that new printed material posed to the dominance of the Bible by changing both its form and its contents, the author reveals the causes and consequences of mutating God's supposedly immutable Word.


Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

The decline of the Bible's prominent role in U.S. thought and culture is sometimes attributed to the influence of German biblical criticism on American scholars in the late 19th century. While Gutjahr (English and American studies, Indiana Univ.) doesn't deny the impact of such criticism, he finds "the roots of the Bible's deteriorating presence" earlierÄin the Bible's place in the United States's young publishing industry. The proliferation of Bible editions, packagings, and translations served to undermine the Bible's uniqueness, and the availability of Protestant and Catholic versions led to conflict over the use of the Bible in public schools. Furthermore, as the publishing industry grew, the Bible faced increasing competition for readers. Gutjahr provides a fascinating look into a neglected area of U.S. cultural history. Unlike some books that begin life as doctoral dissertations, this one is quite readable and engaging and should be in academic and public libraries.ÄCraig W. Beard, Univ. of Alabama at Birmingham (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.