The Word in the World: Evangelical Writing, Publishing, and Reading in America, 1789-1880

By Candy Gunther Brown | Go to book overview

1
What Is Evangelical
Print Culture?

The opening passage of Kate M'Clellan's children's book Two Christmas Gifts (1866), published by the Protestant Episcopal Society for the Promotion of Evangelical Knowledge, provides a window onto the tension-ridden world of evangelical print culture:

The man with the huge basket moved away at last, and Johnny Lee
slipped into his place before the bright store-window, which was un-
like any other in the long street; for it contained only Bibles, Prayer-
Books, and markers; but never before had Johnny seen such ele-
gant book-marks nor such handsomely-bound books. The one that
pleased him most was a monstrous Bible in rich morocco binding,
with very large, clear type. If he only were rich enough to buy that,
what a beautiful present it would be for him to give to his lame
brother Willy, and surely no person's eyes ever could ache while
looking at such large letters, even if the lamp-light were very dim.
And the Bible was opened at one of Willy's favorite chapters: “The
Lord is my shepherd.” If he only were rich! Then the poor boy drew
the thin scarf over his red ears, rubbed his cold hands, and looked far
into the store. How full it seemed, and no wonder; for wasn't it
Christmas Eve? and was not the book that contained the tidings
of great joy brought to earth on the first Christmas night, the best
possible present to make whenever that time came round?

The passage captures a number of the hopes and contradictions that characterized the entrance of evangelical writers, publishers, and readers into the print marketplace of nineteenth-century America. The elegance of the

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