On October 28, 1646, in a wigwam in Nonantum (now Newton), missionary John Eliot preached his first sermon to members of the Massachusetts tribe in their own language, Natick. Sharing the Gospel with the natives was an early aim of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Learn more about Eliot and the first New Testament that was made in America by him for the Algonquin People on my web page at the following link: Click Here
John Eliot’s “conformist views will eventually prompt him to come to America, where he founds fourteen congregations of Indian Christians, translates the Bible into Algonquin and helps prepare the Bay Psalm Book, the first book printed in America. Captured at one point by Indians, he learned their language while in captivity.”
We have been working on making a replica of his Algonquin New Testament for some time now. Thus far, we have finished the four Gospels and made several replicas of this book. We are getting closer to having the entire New Testament ready to print & bind.
To see a few pages that we have cleaned up and made into replicas of Eliot’s work, click the following link. It will take you to the Algonquin page on our web site. Click Here
The first Bible printed in America was done in the native Algonquin Indian Language by John Eliot in 1663; nearly 120 years before the first English language Bible was printed in America by Robert Aitken in 1782. Eliot’s devotion to ministry to America’s natives earned him the title “Apostle to the Indians’.
“John Eliot (1604—1690), American colonial clergyman, was born probably at Widford, Hertfordshire, England, where he was baptized on the 5th of August 1604. He was the son of Bennett Eliot, a middleclass farmer. Little is known of his boyhood and early manhood except that he took a B.A. Degree at Jesus College, Cambridge, in 1622. It seems probable that he entered the ministry of the Established Church, but there is nothing definitely known of him until 1629—1630, when he became an assistant at the school of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, at Little Baddow, near Chelmsford. The influence of Hooker apparently determined Eliot to become a Puritan, but his connection with the school ceased in 1630, when persecutions drove Hooker into exile. The realization of the difficulties in the way of a nonconforming clergyman in England undoubtedly convinced John Eliot to emigrate to America in the autumn of 1631, where he settled first at Boston, assisting for a time at the First Church.
In November 1632, John Eliot became a teacher at the church of Roxbury, with which his connection lasted until his death. There he married Hannah Mulford, who had been betrothed to him in England, and who became his constant helper. Soon, Eliot became inspired with the idea of converting the Indians. His first step was to learn their dialects, which he did by the assistance of a young Indian whom he received into his home. With his aid he translated the Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Prayer. John Eliot first successfully preached to the Indians in their own tongue at Newton in October 1646. At the third meeting several Indians declared themselves converted, and were soon followed by many others.
John Eliot induced the Massachusetts General Court to set aside land for their residence. The Court did so, and also directed that two clergymen be annually elected by the clergy as preachers to the Indians. As soon as the success of Eliot’s endeavors became known, the necessary funds flowed in upon him from private sources in both Old and New England. In July 1649 parliament incorporated the ‘Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in New England,’ which supported and directed the work inaugurated by John Eliot. In 1651 the Christian Indian town founded by Eliot was removed from Nonantum to Natick, where residences, a meeting-house, and a school-house were erected, and where Eliot preached, when able, once in every two weeks as long as he lived.
John Eliot’s missionary labors encouraged others to follow in his footsteps. A second town under his direction was established at Ponkapog (Stoughton) in 1654. His success was duplicated again in Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, and by 1674 the unofficial census of the “praying Indians” numbered 4,000. At Eliot’s death, which occurred at Roxbury on the 21st of May 1690, the missions were at the height of their prosperity.
Even wider in influence and more lasting in value than his personal labors as a missionary, was Eliot’s work as a translator of the Bible and various religious works into the Massachusetts dialect of the Algonquian language. The first work completed was the Catechism, published in 1653 at Cambridge, Massachusetts, the first book to be printed in the Indian tongue. Several years elapsed before Eliot completed his task of translating the Bible. The New Testament was at last issued in 1661, and the Old Testament followed in 1663. The New Testament was bound with it, and thus the whole Bible was completed. To it were added a Catechism and a metrical version of the Psalms. This book was printed in 1663 at Cambridge, Mass., by Samuel Green and Marmaduke Johnson, and was the first Bible printed in America. In 1685 appeared a second edition, in the preparation of which Eliot was assisted by the Rev. John Cotton (1640-1699), of Plymouth, who also had a wide knowledge of the Indian tongue.
Many people are shocked to discover that the first Bible printed in America was not English… or any other European language. In fact, English and European language Bibles would not be printed in America until a century later! Eliot’s Bible did much more than bring the Gospel to the pagan natives who were worshiping creation rather than the Creator… it gave them literacy, as they did not have a written language of their own until this Bible was printed for them. The main reason why there were no English language Bibles printed in America until the late 1700’s, is because they were more cheaply and easily imported from England up until the embargo of the Revolutionary War.
But the kind of Bible John Eliot needed for his missionary outreach to the native American ‘Indians’ was certainly not to be found in England, or anywhere else. It had to be created on the spot. Eliot recognized that one of the main reasons why the Native Americans were considered ‘primitive’ by European settlers, is that they did not have a written alphabet of their own. They communicated almost exclusively through spoken language, and what little writing they did was in very limited pictorial images, more like Egyptian hieroglyphics than that of any functional alphabetical language like those of Europe or Asia or Africa.
Clearly the Word of God was something these people needed if they were to stop worshiping creation and false gods, and learn to worship the true Creator… but God’s Word could not realistically be translated effectively into their primitive pictorial drawings. So Eliot found a wonderful solution: he would give the Native Americans the gift of God’s Word and also give them the gift of true literacy. He agreed to learn their spoken language, and they agreed to learn the Western world’s phonetic alphabet (how to pronounce words made up of character symbols like A, B, C, D, E, etc.) Eliot then translated the Bible into their native Algonquin tongue, phonetically using our alphabet! This way, the natives did not really even need to learn how to speak English, and they could still have a Bible that they could READ. In fact, they could go on to use their newly learned alphabet to write other books of their own, if they so desired, and build their culture as the other nations of the world had done. What a wonderful gift!
Besides his Bible, John Eliot published at Cambridge in 1664 a translation of Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted. With the assistance of his sons he completed (1664) his well-known Indian Grammar Begun, printed at Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 1666. The Indian Primer, comprising an exposition of the Lord’s Prayer and a translation of the Larger Catechism, was published at Cambridge in 1669. In 1671 Eliot printed in English a little volume entitled Indian Dialogues, followed in 1672 by his Logick Primer, both of which were intended for the instruction of the Indians in English. His last translation was Thomas Shepard’s Sincere Convert, completed and published by Grindal Rawson in 1689.
John Eliot’s literary activity, however, extended into other fields than that of Indian instruction. He was, with Richard Mather, one of the editors of the Bay Psalm Book of 1640, which was the first book of any kind ever printed in America.” We also make a replica of this 1640 Bay Psalms book. To purchase and learn more about this book visit our web page at the following link: Click Here
Check out this 1774 Playbill that was printed and hug in London’s theater district by John Wesley. The Rev. John Wesley was against most of the theaters/plays of his day.
Wesley wrote, “This is dear-bought gain. And so is whatever is procured by hurting our neighbour in his soul; by ministering, suppose, either directly or indirectly, to his unchastity, or intemperance, which certainly none can do, who has any fear of God, or any real desire of pleasing Him. It nearly concerns all those to consider this, who have anything to do with taverns, victualling-houses, opera-houses, play-houses, or any other places of public, fashionable diversion. If these profit the souls of men, you are clear; your employment is good, and your gain innocent; but if they are either sinful in themselves, or natural inlets to sin of various kinds, then, it is to be feared, you have a sad account to make. O beware, lest God say in that day, “These have perished in their iniquity, but their blood do I require at thy hands!”
You can purchase my replica of this broadside from my Etsy Store at the following link: Click here to purchase from my Etsy Store
This playbill may be a little hard to read here, so I have included its transcription below:
By command of the King of Kings, (a) and at the desire of all who love his appearing, (b) at the Theatre of the universe, (c) on the eve of time, (d) will be performed, The great assize, or day of judgment. (e) The Scenery, which is now actually preparing, will not only surpass every Thing that has yet been seen, but will infinitely exceed the utmost Stretch of human Conception (f). There will be a just Representation of all the Inhabitants of the World, in their various and proper Colours; and their Customs and Manners will be so exactly and so minutely delineated, that the most secret Thought will be discovered (g). For God shall bring every Work into Judgment, with every secret Thing, whether it be Good, or whether it be evil. Eccles. xii. This Theatre will be laid out after a new Plan, and will consist of Pit and Gallery only; and, contrary to all others, the Gallery is fitted up for the Reception of the People of high (or heavenly) Birth (h), and the Pit for those of low (or earthly) Rank (i). – N. B. The Gallery is very spacious (k), and the Pit without Bottom (l). To prevent Inconvenience, there are separate Doors for admitting the Company; and they are so different, that none can mistake that are not wilfully blind. The Door which opens into the Gallery is very narrow, and the Steps up to it are somewhat difficult; for which Reason there are seldom many People about it (m). But the Door that gives Entrance into the Pit is very wide, and very commodious; which causes such Numbers to flock to it, that it is generally crowded (n). – N. B. The strait Door leads towards the Right-Hand, and the broad one to the Left (o). It will be in vain for one in a tinsel’d Coat and borrowed Language to personate one of high Birth, in order to get Admittance into the upper Places (p); for there is One of wonderful and deep Penetration, who will search and examine every individual (q); and all who cannot pronounce Shibboleth (r) in the Language of Canaan (s), or has not received a white Stone and new Name (l), or cannot prove a clear Title to a certain Portion of the Land of Promise (u), must be turned in at the left Door (w). The Principal Performers Are described in 1 Thess. iv. 16. – 2 Thess. i. 7, 8, 9. – Matt. xxiv. 30, 31. – xxv. 31, 32. – Daniel vii, 9, 10. – Jude 14. 15. – Rev. xx. 12 to 15, &c. But as there are some People much better acquainted with the Contents of a Play-Bill than the Word of God, it may not be amiss to transcribe a Verse or two for their Perusal. “the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with his mighty Angels, in flaming Fire, taking Vengeance on them that obey not the Gospel, ” but “to be glorified in his Saints. A fiery Stream issued and came forth from before him: A thousand thousands ministred unto him, and ten thousand Times ten thousand stood before him: The Judgment was set, and the Books were opened; and whosoever was not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the Lake of Fire.” Act First of this Grand and Solemn Piece Will be opened by an Arch-Angel, with the Trump of God (x). For the Trumpet shall sound, and the Dead shall be raised. 1 Cor. xv. 52. Act Second Will be a Procession of Saints in White (y), with Golden Harps, accompanied with Shouts of Joy, and Songs of Praise (z). Act Third Will be an Assemblage of all the Unregenerate (a). The Music will consist chiefly of Cries (b), accompanied with Weeping, Wailing, Mourning, Lamentation, and Woe (c). To conclude with an Oration by the Son of God. It is written in the 25th of Matthew, from the 34th Verse to the End of the Chapter; but for the Sake of those who seldom read the Scriptures, I shall here transcribe two Verses: “then shall the King say to them on his Right-Hand, Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the Foundation of the World: Then shall he say also unto them on the Left-Hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting Fire, prepared for the Devil and his Angels.” After which the Curtain will drop, Then, O to tell! John v. 28, 29. – – Some raised on high, and others dom’d to Hell! Rev. v. 8, 9. – xiv. 3, 4. – – These praise the Lamb, and sing redeeming Love, Luke xvi. 22, 23. – – Lodg’d in his Bosom, all his Goodness prove:-xix. 14, 27. – – While those who trumpled under-foot his Grace Matt. xxv. 30. – 2 Thess. i. 9. – Are banish’d now for ever from his Face; Luke xvi. 26. – – Divided thus, a Gulph is fix’d between, Matt. xxv. 46. – – And (everlasting) closes up the Scene. Thus will I do unto thee, O Israel; and because I will do this unto thee, prepare to meet thy God, O Israel. Amos iv. 12. Tickets for the Pit, at the easy Purchase of following the vain Pomps and Vanities of the fashionable World, and the Desires and Amusements of the Flesh (d): To be had at every Flesh-Pleasing Assembly. If ye live after the Flesh ye shall die. Rom. viii. 13. Tickets for the Gallery at no less Rate than being converted (e), Forsaking all (f). Denying Self, taking up the Cross (g) and following Christ in the Regeneration (h): To be had no where but in the Word of God, and where that Word appoints. He that hath Ears to hear let him hear. And be not deceived: God is not mocked. For whatsoever a Man soweth, that shall he also reap. – Matt. xi. 15. – Gal. vi. 7. N. B. No Money will be taken at the Door (i), nor will any Tickets give Admittance into the Gallery, but those sealed by the Holy Ghost (k), with Immanuel’s Signet (l). Watch therefore; be ye also ready; for in such an Hour as ye think not, the Son of Man cometh. Matt. xxiv. 42, 44.
You can purchase my replica of this broadside from my Etsy Store at the following link: Click here to purchase from my Etsy Store
READ THIS BEFORE WATCHING THIS VIDEO: You might be misled if you watch this YouTube video published by Museum of the Bible at the link below. I often share their videos here and on Facebook. I wrote them about this video.
“Your video above will misinform those who watch it. You need an additional paragraph between the first and second paragraphs which would tell about Robert Aitken’s 1782 “Bible of the Revolution”? It was the first Bible, in English, published in America; not this one. I make replicas of this Bible. Learn more about the real “first Bible, in English, Made in America” on my web page at the following link: Click Here
Then you might say that Robert Aitken’s daughter, Jane Aitken, printed the Charles Thomson Bible. I know that you are limited to one minute videos, but even so, you should not mislead. I do enjoy and share your videos often. Thanks for making them. You might also consider changing the title of this video to something like, ‘The 1st Translation of the Bible in America'”.
This is a photo of Dale Loberger reading from his pocket size 1733 New Testament that I made for him. Let me know when you would like for me to make you a full size or pocket size replica like Dale’s. In the meantime, check this book out on my web page at the following link: Click Here
The Bay Psalm Book was the 1st book to be Made in America and my book is the first replica of that book. Watch this short 3 minute video that was made by Sotheby’s to learn a little more about this book. Let me know when you want me to make this Bay Psalm Book for you.
This is a page from the book, “A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible, or, Select passages in the Old and New Testaments, represented with emblematical figures, for the amusement of youth : designed chiefly to familiarize tender age, in a pleasing and diverting manner, with early ideas of the Holy Scriptures : to which are subjoined, a short account of the lives of the Evangelists, and other pieces, illustrated with cuts.” In 18th century Protestant Great Britain and her colonies, an individual’s ability to read the Bible was considered a necessity for spiritual growth. Yet, children who were not yet able to read and comprehend the Bible needed a simplified version which would lead them to Christian faith. A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible offered children a fun way to learn Bible stories while also learning how to read. (At that time, the word “curious” meant carefully made, not strange or odd!) Each page offers a Bible verse set out with certain key words replaced with images. Some of the hieroglyphs are hard to decipher; thankfully the scripture verses are printed on the bottom of each page. I make a replica of my original Hieroglyphick Bibles. Visit my web page at the following link to see what went into creating my replica: Click Here Let me know when you want me to make one of these Bibles for you.