Who published Charles Thomson’s translation of
the Bible from Greek and what was Jefferson’s
response?

Charles Thomson wrote the following to Jefferson in 1808:

“I am truly thankful to that kind Providence which directed my attention to this work. It has kept my mind employed, so that I can say I have not during the last nine years found one hour hang heavy on me.”

The translation was issued in four octavo volumes, with the following title page:

The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Covenant, commonly called the Old and New Testament: Translated from the Greek. By Charles Thomson, Late Secretary to the Congress of the United States, Philadelphia: Printed by Jane Aitken,* N. 71 North Third Street, 1808, 4 vols.”

Jefferson was very much interested in the translation, and wrote to Thomson in January, 1808, making a number of suggestions in regard to the proper size of the volumes:

“I see by the newspapers your translation of the Septuagint is now to be printed, and I write this to pray to be admitted as a subscriber. I wish it may not be too late for you to reconsider the size in which it is to be published. Folios and quartos are now laid aside because of their inconvenience. Everything is now printed in 8vo, 12mo, or petit format. The English booksellers print their first editions indeed in 4to, because they can assess a larger price on account of the novelty; but the bulk of readers generally wait for the second edition, which is for the most part in 8vo. This is what I have long practiced myself. Johnson, of Philadelphia, set the example of printing handsome editions of the Bible in 4 vols., 8vo. I wish yours were in the same form.”

Jefferson subscribed to, and ordered a copy of Thomson’s translation of the Bible for his personal use. It is housed in his personal collection of books, under the category, Religion, in the Rare Book Collection of the Library of Congress, together with numerous Bibles, Concordances to the Bible, and other great Christian works – including Rev. John Wesley’s, and Rev. Dr. John Witherspoon’s writings and sermons.

Learn more, click here. (Founders’ book)
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*

Jane Aitken was the daughter of Robert Aitken, publisher of the “Bible of the Revolution.”

 

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