John Brown Self-Interpreting Bible

John Brown (1722-1787) was a Scottish weaver who became a Presbyterian minister. Although self-educated, he prepared an annotated Bible, Bible dictionary and concordance, and a metrical version of the Psalms. His self-interpreting Bible appeared first in 1778 in Edinburgh and was reprinted many times in both Scotland and America. A Bible used on the Battleship Texas was even a Self-Interpreting Bible (displayed elsewhere in the Museum). This edition, the first Bible printed in New York, was printed by subscription in forty parts over a period of two years. The first subscriber was George Washington. He was President at the time and living in New York, then the capital.
Isaac Collins’ 1791 Bible, printed in Trenton, New Jersey, was the first to replace the “Dedication to King James” with “To the Reader.” This introduction was written by John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and President of the College of New Jersey, later Princeton University. This introduction was reprinted in numerous Bibles for decades. In it, Witherspoon gives the history of the Bible and its translations, showing God’s Providence in preserving His Word.
Frontispiece to the 1792 Self-Interpreting Bible shows America (with Indian-style headdress of feathers) sitting holding the Constitution. On the Liberty Tree are engraved the names of American heroes – Washington, Montgomery, Greene, Warren, Adams, …Liberty is standing holding a Liberty cap on pole. On the building in the background is written “Sacred to Liberty, Justice, and Peace,” and statues of those three virtues top the building. Justice and Peace are on either side of the eagle-top medallion at the top of the page. A lady, probably peace, is kneeling and giving America the Bible.
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