That is the title of the first complete Bible printed in the western hemisphere. How did that happen?
Blame the Reformation, the Protestants, and the Pilgrims in particular. The earliest settlers of Massachusetts felt that true Christianity could only be captured and understood when the Bible was translated accurately into one’s native language: no more Latin texts that the uneducated couldn’t read themselves.
Thus you have the project for the first Bible printed in America—created for Americans to read in their native language—and the first Bible ever to be translated specifically for the purpose of evangelizing.
Better known by its dully-descriptive-yet-blessedly-pronounceable nickname the “Eliot Indian Bible,” the book was translated by missionary John Eliot and printed by Samuel Green between 1660 and 1663.
(Green also received the help of one Marmaduke Johnson in printing, though Marmaduke’s services proved not quite worth it after Green prosecuted him for “obtaining the affections” of Green’s daughter.)
Eliot’s efforts forever changed the history of printing using a language now extinct, the Indian Bible’s Natick. Although some of these Bibles were actually used by Native Americans (we know Eliot took at least 42 to distribute himself), a number fell into the hands of Europeans as curiosities. It is now one of the most rare and sought-after books in American history, notwithstanding the fact that no one can read it.
Even without the Indian Bible, Eliot would still have left his mark on American history. He was the co-editor of the Bay Psalm Book, the first book ever printed in the colonies that would become the United States. He was also instrumental in exiling Anne Hutchinson. Ironically, one of his own works, The Christian Commonwealth, would become the first book banned by the American government in 1661.
The first complete Bible in English, the Aitken Bible, would not be printed in America until 1781—the American Revolution had cut off the supply of Bibles from England.
Next post: the Marmaduke Johnson story. I know you guys want to hear that, right?