Category: Blog

Aitken’s 1777 New Testament

I want to thank John Hockley for having this photo taken of himself, a cannon, and his 1777 New Testament that I made for him.  This is not any old ordinary 18th century New Testament.  It is actually a replica of the first New Testament, in English, ever to be Made in America.   Robert Aitken published this New Testament in 1777.  He had to stop production of it and bury his entire print shop in a barn, just before British General Howe and his troops arrived in Philadelphia.   Aitken never resumed making this edition of the New Testament.   However, he started making another New Testament the following year, after the British had gone, in 1778 and continued making New Testaments each year through 1781  There are only three know original copies of this 1777 New Testament that survive today, but none of the 1778, 1779, & 1780 editions survived.  He published his 5th edition in 1781 which did survive.  I make replicas of both of his 1777 and 1781 editions.  I have one replica of his 1781 New Testament for sale in my Etsy Store at the following link:


I’m trying to Decide How to Tool My Replicas of the 1640 Bay Psalm Book

Sotheby’s auctioned off a 1640 Bay Psalm Book back in 2013 for over $14 million. I make replicas of this original Psalme book. It was the first Bay Psalm Book to be auctioned since 1947. There were only 1,700 of these book made in 1640. Only 11 copies survive today and of them only 6 still have their title pages. Although some of them were bound with paste boards, this original was bound with wooden boards and then those boards were covered in leather.
I have a puzzle to solve:
I am making five replicas of this book right now bound with paste boards and am in the process of tooling those five. I want to tool these books to be as similar as possible to the original, although I have seen examples of originals with no tooling at all. As I was looking at this original that was auctioned in 2013, I notice something very familiar. Could it be? I own an original 1614 Book of Common Prayer. I got it down from my shelf and it had the exact same tooling marks on it. I mean exact. It looks like whoever bound this original 1640 Bay Psalm Book also bound my original 1614 Book of Common Prayer. Or at least they worked in the same bindery. The tools used are the same. I wish that I could lay them side by side and not just be looking at a photo of the Bay Psalm Book that was auctioned.
After looking at six more photos of original 1640 Bay Psalm Books that you can see below, I am convinced that the $14 Bay Psalm Book has been rebound and I should not use it as an example of what an original one looked like.  I am not even sure, if the originals had wooden boards.
I have been looking more closely at my 1614 Book of Common Prayer  and I am now certain that it has been rebound sometime ago. I have also looked again at the original 1640 Bay Psalm Book that sold for +$14 million and I can also tell that it was also rebound in the past. I am pretty sure that the same person or bindery rebound them both. I’m sure that the new owner would not be particularly glad to hear that. But the tools used do match. Therefore, I do not know what original tooling looks like.
I do have a photo of an original covered in black leather that looks pretty much the same, except the tool that I was considering having made is different on this book. I think that it has been rebound too. It does have the double line design tooled on the front cover. I have photos of three other original that have no tooling at all and are in bad shape.  See below.  I have done work for a museum or two.  I have made initial  contact wit the Museum of the Bible and am waiting for their reply.
The two books above are of the $14 million rebound 1640 Bay Psalm Book
The two photos above and the closeup shots below are of the spine of my original, but rebound 1614 BCP
The photo above is of the spine of an original 1640 Bay Psalm Book that is in the Library of Congress’ library. It has not been rebound.  This one has no tooling and the text block was sewn around only three cords.
The photo above is of a rebound original 1640 Bay Psalm Book.  Notice that this is not the same tooling mark as seen on the rebound Bay Psalm Book nor on my original 1614 BCP show above.
The photo above is of an original 1640 Bay Psalm Book that has its original binding.  Notice that it does not have wooden board, but paste boards.  It has triple lines on the top and right side and double lines on the bottom.
The photo above is of another original 1640 Bay Psalm Book that has not been rebound.  This one also seem to be bound between paste boards and sewn around three cords.  Notice the simple wide double line tooling on its front cover.
This is another photo of an 1640 Bay Psalm Book that has not been rebound.  It seems to also have been bound with paste boards, the text block has been sewn around three cords,
and you can also see what remains of a brass clasp.  It is hard to tell if it was tooled at all.
This original 1640 Bay Psalm Book above has obviously not been rebound.  It seems to have been bound in a similar manner as the one show above it.  Three rib cords, paste boards, hard to tell if it was tooled at all, and it also has the remnants of brass clasps.
As I said before, there are only 14 known original 1640 Bay Psalm Books in existence today.  I have photos of seven of those above.  I need to find photos of the rest, but with half of them represented here, I think that I have a good idea as to how the original 1640 Bay Psalm Books were bound and tooled.

Continental Congress authorized The Printing of the 1st Bible Ever to be Printed in American in English Today in 1782

This Day in History:  September 12th, 1782 the Continental Congress authorized the printing of the first Bible ever to be printed in American in English.  Robert Aitken of Philadelphia was to be the publisher and his Bible would go on to be called the “Bible of the Revolution”.   I make replicas of Aitken’s “Bible of the Revolution”.  You may purchase the one that I have in stock today from my Esty Store at the following link:  Purchase Here

1782 Bible of the Revolution: For Sale

I have finished the forth replica of the original 1782 Bible of the Revolution.  This is the first Bible in English that was made in America.  On this day, September 1st, 1782, Robert Aitken’s “Bible of the Revolution” was recommended to the Continental Congress.

“Rev. Gentlemen, Our knowledge of your piety and public spirit leads us without apology to recommend to your particular attention the edition of the Holy Scriptures publishing by Mr. Aitken. He undertook this expensive work at a time, when from the circumstances of the war, an English edition of the Bible could not be imported, nor any opinion formed how long the obstruction might continue. On this account particularly he deserves applause and encouragement. We therefore wish you, Reverend gentlemen, to examine the execution of the work, and if approved, to give it the sanction of your judgment and the weight of your recommendation. We are with very great respect, your most obedient humble servants. James Duane, Chairman in behalf of a Committee of Congress on Me. Aitken’s Memorial, Reverend Doct. White and Revd. Mr. Duffield, Chaplains of the United States in Congress assembled.”
~ Letter dated Philadelphia, 1 September, 1782, on the Congress’ adoption of the Aitken Bible
You can purchase this “Bible of the Revolution” from my Etsy Store at the following link:
 Purchase Here  Or to save $50, you can just mail be a check.
Let me know, if you would like to purchase this book.  Learn more about it on my web page at the following link:  Click Here


New Granite Work Surface

I got a new piece of granite in place just before Tim Weiss & his wife, Christine,  arrived for a visit this afternoon. I have been using a thinner and smaller piece of granite for years. This piece is about 1 1/4″ thick X 20″ deep X 29 3/4 inches wide. I needed to have this in place to work with a new piece of equipment that is being delivery this coming Saturday. More on that later. It is way past my ability to lift or carry. On Monday, I told God that I needed someone to come by and move it for me or He would need to translate it into position before Tim Weiss arrived on Tuesday. As we were leaving for the hospital in Nashville, a couple of days ago, I told Polly, “I guess God is going to have to beam it from Tennessee to Kentucky. He didn’t. I wish that he had because that would have been a much better story. But, no one would have probably believed it anyway. Instead, as we were turning into our street my next door neighbor’s son (WKU student) had a class canceled or something and was instead coming home to eat lunch. I ask if he had time to carry this 60 lb. stone into my office and he did. I told him that he was God’s answer to my prayer. Not sure what he thought, but he smiled and I went off praising Jesus. I still am. Having it moved into place was a real interesting direct answer to prayer with lots of variables that had to “fall” into place. God still answers prayer. Don’t forget to ask Him.

Tim Weiss’ Bay Psalm Book will be the 1st on 100% Rag Cotton Laid Paper

I am getting ready to make another Bay Psalm Book. This time it is for Tim Weiss. He dropped by the house on a tail end of a 2,000+ “I just retire” road trip, aka vacation. He commissioned me to make this Bay Psalm Book for him today during his visit. Starting with this one, I will be printing all of my smaller size books on “100% Cotton Rag Laid Extra No. 1 Quality paper by Crane & Co.” which is made in the USA. I think that other paper was too. Both this paper, and the paper that I have been using during this past decade, is Natural White and 24 W. This paper cost about six and half times more than the laid paper that I have used in the past. I think that it will be worth the extra money. It feels better in my hand, lays more like the original paper in the book, and the screen image that you see when you hold it up to the light looks more like period paper from the 18th century. But who looks at the pages of their book while holding them up to the sun? Artists, Printers and Bookbinders? The truth is that I have shown both this new paper and the old paper to people, including Polly, and no one thus far really sees nor feels any difference, but I do. Let me know, when you want me to make one of these Psalters for you.

Learn more about my replica of the Bay Psalm Book on my web page at the following link:  Click Here