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BIBLE SOCIETIES

it has its own agencies or secretaries in twenty-seven of the chief cities of the world, and maintains depots in 200 other centres. It employs 930 Christian colporteurs abroad, who sold in 1905-1906 over 2,250,000 volumes. It supports 670 native Christian Bible-women in the East, in connexion with forty different missionary organizations. The centenary festival in 1904 was celebrated with enthusiasm by the Reformed Churches and their foreign missions throughout the world. Messages of congratulation came from the rulers of every Protestant nation in Christendom, and a centenary thanksgiving fund of 250,000 guineas was raised for extending the society’s work. During the year 1905-1906 the society expended £238,632, while its income was £231,964 (of which £98,204 represented receipts from sales). Up to the 31st of March 1906 the society had expended altogether £14,686,072, and had issued 198,515,199 copies of the Scriptures—of which more than 78,000,000 were in English.

In Scotland the Edinburgh Bible Society (1809), the Glasgow Bible Society (1812), and other Scottish auxiliaries, many of which had dissociated themselves from the British and Foreign Bible Society after 1826, were finally incorporated (1861) with the National Bible Society of Scotland, which has carried on vigorous work all over the world, especially in China. During 1905, with an income of £27,108, it issued 1,590,881 copies, 907,000 of which were circulated in China. Its total issues from 1861 to 1906 were 26,106,265 volumes.

In Ireland the Hibernian Bible Society (originally known as the Dublin Bible Society) was founded in 1806, and with it were federated kindred Irish associations formed at Cork, Belfast, Derry, &c. The Hibernian Bible Society, whose centenary was celebrated in 1906, had then issued a total of 5,713,837 copies. It sends an annual subsidy to aid the foreign work of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

Other European Societies.—The impulse which founded the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1804 soon spread over Europe, and, notwithstanding the turmoils of the Napoleonic wars, kindred organizations on similar lines quickly sprang up, promoted and subsidized by the British and Foreign Bible Society. Many of these secured royal and aristocratic patronage and encouragement—the tsar of Russia, the kings of Prussia, Bavaria, Sweden, Denmark and Württemberg all lending their influence to the enterprise.

Within fourteen years the following Bible societies were in active operation: the Basel Bible Society (founded at Nuremberg, 1804), the Prussian Bible Society (founded as the Berlin Bible Society, 1805), the Revel Bible Society (1807), the Swedish Evangelical Society (1808), the Dorpat Bible Society (1811), the Riga Bible Society (1812), the Finnish Bible Society (1812), the Hungarian Bible Institution (Pressburg, 1812), the Württemberg Bible Society (Stuttgart, 1812), the Swedish Bible Society (1814), the Danish Bible Society (1814), the Saxon Bible Society (Dresden, 1814), the Thuringian Bible Society (Erfurt, 1814), the Berg Bible Society (Eberfeld, 1814), the Hanover Bible Society (1814), the Hamburg-Altona Bible Society (1814), the Lübeck Bible Society (1814), the Netherlands Bible Society (Amsterdam, 1814). These were increased in 1815 by the Brunswick, Bremen, Schleswig-Holstein, Strassburg and Eichsfeld (Saxony) Bible Societies, and the Icelandic Bible Society. In 1816-1817 came the Norwegian Bible Society, the Polish Bible Society and ten minor German Bible Societies. Twelve cantonal societies had also been formed in Switzerland.

Up to 1816-1817 these societies had printed altogether 436,000 copies of the Scriptures, and had received from the British and Foreign Bible Society gifts amounting to over £62,000. The decision of the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1826 with regard to circulating the Apocrypha (see above) modified its relations with the most influential of these continental societies. Some of them were ultimately dissolved or suppressed through political or ecclesiastical opposition, the Roman Church proving especially hostile. But many of them still flourish, and are actively engaged in their original task.

The circulation of the Scriptures by German Bible Societies during 1905 was estimated as follows:—The Prussian Bible Society (Berlin), 182,000 copies; the Württemberg Bible Institute (Stuttgart), 247,000; the Berg Bible Society (Eberfeld), 142,000; the Saxon Bible Society (Dresden), 44,000; the Central Bible Association (Nuremberg), 14,000; the Canstein Bible Institute (Halle), the Schleswig-Holstein Bible Society, the Hamburg-Altona Bible Society and others, together 56,000.

During 1905, nine cantonal Bible societies in Switzerland circulated altogether 71,000 copies; the Netherlands Bible Society reported a circulation of 54,544 volumes, 48,137 of which were in Dutch; the Danish Bible Society circulated 45,289 copies; the Norwegian Bible Society circulated 67,058 copies; and in Sweden the Evangelical National Society distributed about 110,000 copies.

In Italy, by a departure from the traditional policy of the Roman Church, the newly formed “Pious Society of St Jerome for the Dissemination of the Holy Gospels” issued in 1901 from the Vatican press a new Italian version of the Four Gospels and Acts. By the end of 1905 the society announced that over 400,000 copies of this volume had been sold at 2d. a copy.

In France, the Société biblique protestante de Paris, founded in 1818, with generous aid from the British and Foreign Bible Society, had a somewhat restricted basis and scope. In 1833 the Société biblique française et étrangère was formed on wider lines; after its dissolution in 1863, many of its supporters joined the Société biblique de France, which dates from 1864, and represents chiefly members of the Église libre, and kindred French Evangelicals. During 1905 its issues were 34,475 copies, while the Société biblique protestante de Paris issued 8061 copies.

Of these non-British societies the most noteworthy was established in Russia. In December 1812, while “the last shattered remnants of Napoleon’s Grand Army struggled across the ice of the Niemen,” the tsar Alexander I. sanctioned plans for a Bible society, which was promptly inaugurated at St Petersburg under the presidency of Prince Galitzin. Through the personal favour of the tsar, it made rapid and remarkable progress. Nobles and ministers of state, with the chief ecclesiastics not only of the Russian Church but of the Roman, the Uniat, the Armenian, the Greek, the Georgian and the Lutheran Churches, found themselves constrained to serve on its committees. By the close of 1823 the Russian Bible Society had formed 289 auxiliaries, extending eastwards to Yakutsk and Okhotsk; and had received altogether £145,640. In 1824, however, Prince Galitzin ceased to be procurator of the Holy Synod, and Seraphim, metropolitan of St Petersburg, became president of the Russian Bible Society. And in 1826, soon after his accession, the tsar Nicholas I. issued a ukase suspending the society’s operations—after it had printed the Scriptures in thirty different languages, seventeen of which were new tongues, and had circulated 600,000 volumes from the Caucasus to Kamchatka. In 1828 Nicholas I. sanctioned the establishment of a Protestant Bible Society, which still exists, to supply the Scriptures only to Protestant subjects of the tsar (cf. Th. Schiemann, Geschichte Russlands unter Nikolaus I. vol. i. chap. ix.). In 1839 St Petersburg became the headquarters of an agency of the British and Foreign Bible Society, which enjoys special facilities in Russia, and now annually circulates about 600,000 copies of the Scriptures, in fifty different languages, within the Russian empire.

In America the earliest Bible society was founded at Philadelphia in 1808. Six more societies—including those of New York and of Massachusetts—were formed during 1809, and other societies, auxiliaries and associations quickly followed. In 1816 a convention of delegates representing 31 of these institutions met at New York and established the American Bible Society, with Elias Boudinot as president. All kindred organizations in the states gradually became amalgamated with this national body, and the federation was completed in 1839 by the adhesion of the Philadelphia Society (which now changed its name to the Pennsylvania Bible Society). Not a few noteworthy versions of the Bible, such as those in Arabic, 15 dialects of Chinese, Armenian, and Zulu, and many American Indian, Philippine, and African languages have appeared under the auspices of the American Bible Society. Turkish, classical Chinese, and Korean versions have been made by the American and British societies jointly. The society’s foreign agencies extend to China, Japan, Korea, the Turkish empire, Bulgaria, Egypt, Micronesia, Siam, Mexico, Central America, the South American republics, Cuba and the Philippines. In the year ending March 31st 1909 the income of the Society was $502,345, and it issued 2,153,028 copies of the Scriptures, nearly half of which went to readers outside the United States. The total distribution effected by the American Bible Society and its federated societies had in 1909 exceeded 84,000,000 volumes, in over a hundred different languages.

Authorities.—Besides the published reports of the societies in question, the following works may be mentioned: J. Owen, History of the First Ten Years of the British and Foreign Bible Society (London, 1816-1820); G. Browne, History of the Bible Society (London, 1859); Bertram, Geschichte der Cansteinschen Bibelanstalt (Halle, 1863); E. Pétavel, La Bible en France (Paris, 1864); O. Douen, Histoire de la société biblique protestante de Paris (Paris, 1868); G. Borrow,