Saturday, June 28, 2014

On Writing a History of the American Bible Society--Update #13

Richard Varick: President of ABS during 1st General Supply
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It was a pretty quiet Friday at the American Bible Society (ABS).  I finished my last day of my first summer 2014 stint in the archives here and it was a productive one. Thanks again to Mary Cordato and Kristin Hellman for making the ABS a great place to conduct research.

On Friday I worked my way through ABS Extracts published in the late 1820s and early 1830s.  This was about the time of the ABS's "General Supply." Between 1829 and 1831 the Society attempted to give a Bible to every family and adult individual in the United States. It was an ambitious undertaking.  I have been looking at the way the local auxiliaries and ABS field agents have been responding to this call. I have been uncovering a lot of good anecdotes and stories.

I have also been wrestling with the nature of the book I am writing . My original goal was to write a semi-scholarly/semi-popular history of the American Bible Society that was deeply grounded in the primary sources and informed by the best secondary literature in American religious history and other fields.  I am enjoying my work on this project and wish I could spend more time on it. But, alas, I have agreed to deliver a book in time for the 200th anniversary of the ABS.  With this in mind, I am just not sure I can deliver a book with the kind of depth and scholarly analysis I had originally planned.

This is a rather new kind of history writing.  I am going to have to try to figure out how to write an institutional history in one year without sacrificing my own standards as a critical historian.  I am not sure if this is possible.  We will see what happens. This is going to take a lot of work over the course of the next year, but it is also a challenge I need right now.