An Unusual Relic from the Revolutionary War
Previous editions of the Bible printed in America were produced from type cast in Europe and shipped to the colonies.The first Bible produced with type cast in America was printed by Christopher Sower, Jr. in Germantown, Pennsylvania in 1776.
The foundry Sower set up in 1772 to produce hot metal type was the first of its kind in America. Sower’s Bible, using type from his foundry, was printed in Gothic style German during the Revolutionary War.
Sower’s print shop, engulfed in the fighting between Americans and the British, was severely damaged during the Battle of Germantown. Although Sower had always maintained a neutral position politically, his property was seized by the American authorities and sold at auction. Unbound pages of the German Bible were sold “for less than a quarter of the price of a like quantity of ordinary wrapping paper.”
A printer from the city, unaware of their value, in turn sold the pages for gun wadding and cartridge covers to be used by American soldiers. Ironically, what was originally intended for the salvation of men’s souls was used to destroy their bodies.
Shown below: Links to a facsimile of the Bible’s cover page, plus one of the Bible’s original surviving pages. Note that the left-hand corner of this page is scorched, caused — one suspects — during the heat and fury of the battle when Sower’s print shop was under siege.