Aitken New Testament
Robert Aitken first advertised his New Testament for sale in the August 28, 1777 edition of the Pennsylvania Evening Post. The transcription of this ad is below:
“Just printed (bound and ready for sale) by R. Aitken, printer and bookseller, opposite the London Coffee-house, Frontstreet, a neat edition of THE NEW TESTAMENT for the use of schools, where may be had writing paper of different kinds, particularly letter paper of the first quality, and several hundreds of excellent quills.
The Aitken New Testament is about 1 1/4″ thick by 3 7/8″ wide by 6 1/2″ tall
Before the Revolution, it had been impossible to print an English language version of the Bible in the colonies because no American printers held a license from the King granting permission to print the Bible. The war cut off shipments of Bibles from Great Britain, but also got rid of the need for the license; thereby creating a shortage of Bibles and the ability to print them in America.
Robert Aitken stepped in to fill this void. Beginning in 1777, Aitken began publishing and selling New Testaments. Demand was heavy, so every year, for the next five years, Aitken published a new edition of his New Testament. In total, he published five editions: Aitken’s second edition was published in 1778; his third in 1779; his fourth in 1780; and finally his last and fifth edition was published in 1781. I am unsure of the number of New Testaments Aitken printed each year, but I expect that it was somewhere between one thousand and ten thousand.
It was not until 1782 that Aitken published his first complete Bible; his first Old Testament was added to his previously printed New Testament. I believe that Aitken planned ahead and printed about ten thousand additional New Testaments in 1781 and had them waiting to be bound with the ten thousand Old Testaments he printed in 1782. You will notice that the 1782 Bible’s New Testament title page is dated 1781, while the Old Testament is dated 1782. This was the only year that the Aitken Bible was published.