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July 05, 2021

The Aitken Bible

Risk is intrinsic to any business venture — and Robert Aitken’s business was no exception. Aitken produced a large inventory of product; the product was a book; the book, was the Bible. And unfortunately for Aitken, the risk did not pay off.

Here’s his story. In the late 1700s, the American Revolution interrupted trade with Britain and caused a scarcity of Bibles. So, in 1782, Aitken published what is believed to be the first English Bible printed in North America. The translation was approved by the Continental Congress, who wrote they “recommended this edition of the Bible to the inhabitants of the United States.”

Aitken went tens of thousands of dollars in debt. One story even relates that he had to bury the typeset in a barn in order to conceal it from British soldiers. But the war ended. And less-expensive, higher-quality Bibles from Britain flooded back into the market.

Aitken lost his money—but gained a place in history for publishing the first English Bible printed in the United States.

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