Thursday, August 14, 2014

On Writing the History of the American Bible Society--Update #48

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I am back in New York for a few days continuing my research at the American Bible Society.  When I was at the ABS last month I was reading letters and documents about the ABS and slavery.  I hope to return to that material by the end of the day today or tomorrow.  But yesterday I revisited the period of 1829-1831, the time of the ABS “General Supply.”  As I have written in previous posts, the “General Supply” was the ABS’s attempt to provide a copy of the Bible for every American family.  And did I mention that they wanted to do this in two years?  

Since I am in the process of writing my chapter on the General Supply I am combing the archives reading every piece of documentation I can find from that two-year period.  This includes letters from state and local Bible societies (auxiliaries), letters written by specially appointed ABS agents as they traverse the country distributing Bibles, and official records and meeting minutes of the ABS that focus specifically on the General Supply. 

On the publishing front I had some good news and bad news yesterday.  I got a very strong bite from a commercial/trade/religious press.  But my proposal was turned down by a literary agent and a university press.   My guess is that literary agents think it will be difficult to sell an institutional religious history to a major trade press.  Most university presses are very interested in the project, but are just not equipped to deliver a book in one year. 

Sometimes I wonder why I took on this project.  Who is crazy enough to write an accessible scholarly history of a 200-year old organization in one year?  I am enjoying the work, but I wish I had more time.