The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/American Bible Society, The

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AMERICAN BIBLE SOCIETY, The, organized in New York in 1816, to encourage the wider circulation of the Bible. In 1841 an act of incorporation was obtained with privileges which have since been enlarged. In 1852 the Bible House was built, occupying the whole of the ground bounded by Third and Fourth avenues, Astor Place and Ninth Street. It is one of the oldest office buildings in New York. The government of the Society is entrusted to a board of managers, consisting of 36 laymen, one-fourth of whom retire from office each year, but are re-eligible. Laymen who were constituted directors for life before 1 June 1877, and ministers who are life members are authorized to attend the meetings of the board, with power to speak and vote. Its constant aim has been to secure the adequate translation of the Holy Scriptures into all the languages of the earth and to distribute these translations as widely as possible, and especially to reach the destitute of all classes and conditions. Four times it has undertaken to canvass the whole country for this purpose. These canvasses were begun in 1829, 1856, 1866 and in 1882. During the fourth resupply, beginning in 1882, more than 6,300,000 families were visited by its colporteurs, and 473,806 families were supplied with the Scriptures, and in addition nearly 300,000 individuals. In 1912 it issued Scriptures for use in the United States in 83 languages besides English. During the last 30 years its foreign circulation has steadily increased, rising from 250,000 copies in 1876 to over 2,000,000 copies in 1915. It has, by large grants both of money and books, aided missionary labors of the various Christian churches having missions in foreign lands to prosecute Bible translation and distribution. It has now 12 regular foreign agencies under its own direction, each under the supervision of an ordained minister of the gospel. During the last 30 years its foreign circulation has reached a total of 18,000,000 volumes. It has about 500 persons under its direction in the home field, and 810 in foreign lands. In addition to the printing done in the United States in 1915, it had Scriptures printed for its use at Shanghai, and other cities in China, at Yokohama, at Constantinople, at Beyrout and at Bangkok. Translations have been begun, and in part published, in several of the many languages spoken in the Philippine Islands. For the last year of record, which was its one hundredth year, ending 31 Dec. 1915, the society issued 7,204,497 volumes and for the 100 years 117,130,711 volumes. These Scriptures were in 164 languages, which include the languages of at least nine North American Indian tribes. The increase of Bible reading in China is most notable, the society's circulation reaching 2,225,000 volumes in the year 1915. Some large bequests have been made during the last decade, especially one from the late John S. Kennedy of $850,000. The endowment fund of the Society was added to by Mrs. Russell Sage, who gave $500,000, the society raising $500,000. The income of the society is however very inadequate to its great world needs. Its annual budget calls for an expenditure of over $800,000, The offices are at the Bible House (see Bible Society). Consult Dwight, ‘The Centennial History of the Society’ (New York 1916).