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First Bible Printed in the New Nation

During British colonial control, the printing of bibles in America was forbidden. Following the Revolution the dearth of bibles captured the attention of the U.S. Congress. When the call to import massive numbers of bibles failed, Congress entertained the 1781 petition of the Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken, who asked for sanction and support to print a bible. Publisher of the Pennsylvania Magazine and the initial Journals of Congress, Aitken had already printed several editions of the New Testaments before he proposed the project to Congress. Convinced of his credentials for this difficult task, Congress granted Aitken permission and financial support to print the first American bible. Although 10,000 copies of the Aitken Bible were printed, a copy of the first printing, such as the one shown here, is very rare. It is estimated that no more than forty survive today.

Robert Aitken (1735–1802). The Holy Bible; Containing the Old and New Testaments. . . . Vols. 1 and 2. Philadelphia: R. Aitken, 1782.
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