The Digitally Divine Word: Translating and Publishing the English Bible in Post-1980 America

Sunday, January 6, 2019: 9:20 AM
Spire Parlor (Palmer House Hilton)
Paul Gutjahr, Indiana University
There have been two American publishing revolutions which have proved to be watershed moments in the print culture of the United States. The first of these moments occurred in the 1820 with the wide acceptance of stereotyping and power printing along with significant gains in the nation’s literacy rates. The second of these moments occurred in the 1980s with the wide adoption of computer printing technologies. This paper will explore the radical changes in English Bible translation and publishing post 1980. This revolution in biblical production is tied to the widespread adoption and use of various computer technologies, and it has led to momentous changes in everything from how the Bible is marketed to how it is read.

To study American Bible publishing is to study American publishing in general, for the country’s forays into bible publishing touch every development in American textual production from the hand-press period to the digital age. Since its first printing in 1777, American Bible publishers have made constant use of the newest technologies to ensure that the Bible’s content is accessible to as many people as possible. In a very real sense, the history of American book publishing writ large is powerfully illustrated by American Bible publishing. To trace developments in American type setting, page formatting, paper production, binding practices, and distribution networks for print-based material, one need look no further than the history of American Bible publishing. Any close look at the over two century-long production of the text that gave early Americans the nickname a “People of the Book” provides a plethora of insights into the book publishing practices that mark all the other books of that people as well.