Saturday, August 02, 2008

Jane Aitken

Jane Aitken (1764-1832), is a significant historical figure for several reasons. One of the first American female printers, Jane Aitken was also a bookseller, bookbinder, businesswoman, and employer during the early nineteenth century, a time when the independence of women was actively discouraged.

According to printing historian Leona Hudak, almost nothing is known of Jane Aitken’s personal life and work. She was the daughter of Robert Aitken, a printer, bookbinder, and bookseller who emigrated from Paisley, Scotland to Philadelphia in 1769. Her father had the distinction of publishing the first complete English-language Bible printed in America and the only one ever authorized and approved by Congress. Jane’s own unique contribution to American printing history was the first American translation of the Bible, published in four octavo volumes in 1808.

The Bible that Aitken published was historic for more than one reason. It was the first English translation of the Septuagint.

Charles Thomson was the Secretary to the United States Congress from 1774 to 1789, when he resigned to pursue his scholarly interests. Thomson was fascinated with the early Greek manuscripts of the New Testament and the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the “Septuagint”. He produced the first translation of the Septuagint into English, and the first new modern-English translation of the New Testament in the western hemisphere. Charles Thomson spent twenty years perfecting his translation, and then he sought a publisher

The publisher he found was the daughter of the famous Robert Aitken, who had produced the first English Bible printed in America in 1782. Her name was Jane Aitken. On September 12, 1808, in Philadelphia, Jane Aitken published Charles Thomson’s translation of the Bible into modern English in four volumes, making her the first woman to ever print a Bible, and the first publisher of a modern-English Bible since the King James version of two centuries earlier.

PS She is not a woman bible translator but she best fits this series.


Anonymous said...

Interesting to read about my husband's ancestors! Thank you!

- Jane Aitken

Suzanne McCarthy said...

It is an interesting story, both about the Bible of the Revolution and Thompson's Septuagint translation.