May 20th, 1867.
FOR CHRISTIANS TO READ
I WAS to have gone with a detective policeman through all the underground dens of vice and rascality in the Five Points and other and still more infamous localities of New York, last night, but orders from headquarters employed the officer otherwise, and we had to put off the expedition until next Saturday night. So, as human nature delights in contrasts, and I have considerable human nature in me, I thought I would go through one of the chief among the fountain-heads of civilization in this great city, (if not the chief,) and then compare to-day's experiences with next Saturday's, and see which I like best. I wandered through the great Bible House for nearly three hours, to-day, in company with one of its officers, and without meaning to be irreverent, I can say that I enjoyed the time more than I could possibly have done in any circus.
The Bible House is a huge, handsome brick structure five stories high, and fills up one small block by itself. It was built by the American Bible Society out of funds secured by special donation for that particular purpose, and therefore the Association's regular finances were in no way concerned in the matter.
The American Bible Society is fifty years old, having been organized in 1816. Its first President was Elias Boudinot, of New Jersey, and its seventh and present President is James Lennox, of New York. Its business is to translate, print, publish and distribute Bibles to all the nations of the earth, and at cost price, no penny being made on any volume. They print the Bible, now, in nearly fifty different languages and dialects. Some of these lingoes are curious enough. For instance, they print Bibles in the Arrawack (South America,) Hawaiian, Hindu, Hindi, Urdu, Zulu, the Shikh, the Hindustanee, the Tamil, the Telugu, Creolese, the Syriac, the Arabic, Micronesian Islands, the Esthonian, the Benga, the Grebo, Fuh-Chau colloquial and Mandarin colloquial, and the Armeno-Turkish, and now are stereotyping Bibles to print in Slavonic and also the ancient Bulgarian. The Arabic plates now being prepared under the supervision of the translator, Rev. Dr. Van Dyck, will give the Bible to a hundred and twenty millions of people! When I tell you that over a million Bibles a year are now printed in the Bible House, and that a large portion of these are for our private home consumption, and that the supply cannot possibly be kept up to the demand, with all their immense facilities, you will easily understand that while this is the case with our little 40,000,000 of population, it would hardly be worth while to try to supply those thirsty myriads of Arabs with the water of life without outside help. So, the Society are making electrotype plates for the Bible House, also for the establishment in Beirout, and also for the British Society in London. When they all get started, then let the Arabs stand from under.
Now I will give you another dose of languages in which the Bible is printed at the Bible House and its branches: Modern Greek, Hebrew, Spanish, Turkish, Mahratta, Armenian, Gujerattee (some kind of Irish, I suppose,) Sanscrit, Portuguese, Persian, Siamese, Malay, Bujis, Dyack, Japanese, Marquesas, Mpongwe, Dikele, Zulu-Kaffir, Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek, Osage, Ojibbewa, Ottawa, Seneca, Abenequis, Sioux or Dakota, Pawnee, and three languages in Oregon. On the first floor of the building is the Bible Society's Library (it is very extensive,) and, appropriately enough, there isn't a solitary thing in it but Bibles! I shall send them a copy of my book, so as to make a little variety. In that library they have got Bibles in every tongue that was spoken at the Tower of Babel, and some that have been invented since Bibles in all sorts of crooked characters; Bibles in raised letters for the blind; and even Bibles in short-hand. It makes a man cross-eyed to go through it. I suppose, next, they will get up a Bible loud enough for the deaf and dumb to use. They have got Bibles there which were printed when Caxton was an apprentice, and other Bibles (Hebrew rolls on vellum,) musty and yellow with age, that may have been used in Solomon's Temple - who shall be able to say they were not? But the handsomest of all are the beautiful Arabic and Armenian Bibles, beautiful as Italian script. The Armenian ones have been compared with fine manuscripts in the Astor Library, 800 years old, and found to be in no wise inferior to them in execution. The Arabs consider it profanation to put their language in vulgar print for a Bible, but the Arabic Bible I have mentioned so fascinates them by its wonderful elegance that they gracefully yield and eagerly read it. And, in truth, born Christian as I am, it fascinated me rather more than the old regular Bible I am accustomed to does. I have got an Arabic Bible, and it has its little drawbacks -but it has its advantages, too, because you have to begin at the fag end of it, and read it backwards and left-handed. It was a sort of a fresh, new sensation to see the last end of the good book, because I hadn't been there before for some time. [Sift out the nonsense, and go after the wholesome facts. I have necessarily got to comment some.]
Since its organization, the American Bible Society has printed and distributed 22,640,404 Bibles, and the British Society in London, twelve years older, has printed and distributed 50,000,000. The two Societies work a good deal together, and together they have sent out over 70,000,000 Bibles! And now at this day, with the demands from the old regular quarters fear fully augmenting all the time, comes this new Arabic contract for about 100,000,000 more, and when they are fully under way with China I suppose there will be a call for three times as many more! Has the world gone mad after Bibles? It looks like it. Suppose the descendants of the sacred historians still held the copy rights! Dividends?
The war brought the Bible House an immense business - a prodigious business added to the already colossal labors of the Bible House presses. The Christian Commission ordered and distributed to rebels, freedmen and United States soldiers, fifteen hundred thousand Bibles! - and during the pressure of 1863, '64, and part of '65, the Bible House printers turned out, all bound and ready for shipment, TEN BIBLES A MINUTE! It looks large - it is 6,000 a day, counting ten hours to the day - but with their present increased facilities they turn out 5,000 a day and do not run late at night. They had to go night and day then, however, and probably produced 10,000 or 12,000 a day. They have got to go to working harder than ever, now, though, because orders flow in faster than their nineteen great Adams' steam presses can print the books. And yet the Society has branches in Germany, India, China, Beirout - everywhere, almost - whose presses are chattering all the time.
Two hundred and fifty women and one hundred and fifty men - four hundred operatives in all - are employed in the Bible House.
In the fifth story I found all sorts of compositors setting type in all manner of barbarous languages. Among them the Rev. Father Agapius, a Cossack by birth, and a priest of the Greek Church, was setting up the Gospels in tangled-up Arabic type. A printed page of his work looks like ever so many elegant fishing-worms out on a spree. A Circassian - a scholar of mighty learning, and in former times a soldier of the Emperor Nicholas's Body Guard - was setting up the Bible in Russian. In a room close by, Rev. Dr. Van Dyck was reading proofs of the Arabic Bible. Japs and Indians and Kanakas all around.
In a great hall adjoining, vast piles of paper were being wet down for the presses.
In a small room on the same floor they were making matrices and moulding Arabic type. One man can mould about a thousand an hour. They have to have 1,100 matrices for the Arabic characters; - our alphabet and accompanying points only requires about fifty. Fancy an Arab printer prowling around through a case with eleven hundred boxes in it and hoping to live the allotted years of man!
Still on this fifth floor is a huge room with nineteen large Adams' steam presses, all manned by women (four of them confounded pretty, too), snatching off Bibles in Dutch, Hebrew, Yamyam, Cherokee, etc., at a rate which it was truly fructifying to contemplate. (I don't really know the meaning of that word, but I heard it used somewhere yesterday, and it struck me as being an unusually good word. Any time that I put in a word that doesn't balance the sentence good, I would be glad if you would take it out and put in that one.)
Adjoining was another huge room for drying the printed sheets, (very pretty girls in there, too, and young,) and pressing them, (the sheets, not the girls.) They use hydraulic presses, (the three prettiest of them wore curls and never a sign of a water fall, - the girls, I mean,) and each of them is able to come down with the almost incredible weight of eight hundred tons of solid, simon-pure pressure (the hydraulics I am referring to now of course,) and one has got blue eyes and both of the others brown, ah, me! I have got this hydraulic business tangled a little, but I can swear it is no fault of mine. You needn't go to blaming me about it. You have got to pay for this letter just the same as if it were as straight as a shingle. I can't afford to go into dangerous places and then get my wages docked into the bargain.
On the fifth floor is likewise the electrotyping department. Nobody but men in there.
On the fourth floor is the immense folding-room. Eighty girls there (some of them very pretty), folding book-sheets at the rate of over 5,000 forms a day apiece. Book-folding is one of the most interesting operations I ever witnessed. I staid there about four hours and a half.
In the next room was the "gathering" department. A woman stands inside of a long oval pen, the top of which looks enough like a bar-counter to rivet the interest of even the most thoughtless. On this counter are laid piles of folded chapters of the Bible, side by side - piles of the Books of Esau, Isaac and Jacob, Matthew, Mark and Genesis, Chapter 1, 2, 3, and so on, each chapter to itself - and that woman shins around inside of that counter and snakes off a chapter from each pile as fast as a printer picks up types, and before you could ask her out to drink she has stacked up a complete Bible straight through from Exodus to Deuteronomy! It went ahead of anything that ever I saw. There were about a dozen of these book-stackers in as many pens (but they don't allow outsiders to go in the pens - you have to stay on your own side of the fence and keep your hands off), and when a Bible is properly stacked together it is pressed in another lot of those same hydraulic arrangements (1,300 tons pressure), and conveyed to the adjoining
Where, of course, the volumes are stitched together, and where you don't see anything but waterfalls, waterfalls, waterfalls. They don't turn around when you pass through. That is, only in a very general sort of way.
On the third floor was the place where they put the covers on the books; next to it was the room where they put on the gold-leaf in the rough, and in another room they add the gorgeous finishing touches, with all sorts of furnaces and complicated instruments; and down on the
Second floor was the Repository - dead loads of books all piled up ready for shipment to all quarters of the globe.
On the first story is the packing and shipping department, sales-rooms, offices, library, convention-room of the Society officers, and so on.
The Bible House is a wonderful institution, truly. It turns out the cheapest books in America, and the most of them. You can buy a Bible there of any size, from a flag-stone down to a cake of soap, and buy it cheaper than you can let it alone, too. Their highest price Bible, a splendid affair, in morocco, on exquisite paper, beautiful letter-press and gilt edges, is sold at $14 - worth $40 if anybody else published it. And they will sell you a complete Bible, well bound in sheep, for forty-five cents. There fore, why need men be ignorant of the Word? The great city of New York has within her limits no institution she has more reason to be proud of than this colossal Bible Association.
I had almost forgotten to mention that the heavy pressure now crowding the presses is occasioned by unlimited orders from the South. The orders are received faster than they can be filled. They appear to have run pretty short of Bibles down there, especially among the freedmen. The freedmen are literally voracious for Bibles. They are feeding them upon ship loads of St. John, now, till they can get ahead far enough with the presses to let loose a freshet of New Testaments entire upon them.
While I am on this religious subject, I might as well make a clean deal of it, I suppose. There are thousands of Christians on the Pacific Coast, and they will read it. I don't write for the sinful altogether.
In the Bible House are the headquarters of the American Church Missionary Society, the Children's American Church Missionary Society, and the Evangelical Knowledge Society.
The object of the American Church Missionary Society is to send preachers around, wherever they may be needed. It was established in 1860, and is a creation of the Evangelical portion of the Protestant Episcopal Church. A yearly membership in it costs $3, and a life membership $100. A donation of $500 lifts a man to the dignity of Patron. Admiral Dupont was President of the Society at the time of his death. Jay Cook holds the office now. Geo. D. Morgan is Treasurer. Rev. Franklin S. Rising, well known and esteemed in California and Nevada, is Financial Secretary and General Agent - office, 3 Bible House, where orders for missionaries will be attended to with promptness and despatch, either in small lots or by the cargo. The latter preferred, of course. At present the Society is engaged only in supplying orders for home consumption. However, the facilities afforded by the Government for exporting, duty free, may induce them to enlarge their business and embark in the foreign trade to some extent hereafter.
The Society publishes a monthly pamphlet periodical called the "American Church Missionary Register," price 50 cents a year. She used to be issued sometimes every now and then, sometimes bi-monthly and occasionally seldom, but they have got her regulated down to a monthly now, and they can depend on her. She don't miss fire any more. Mr. Rising edits her, and she is a credit to him. I do not write for her, but would, if so requested. Her circulation is extending rapidly. She has added nearly 3,000 paid subscribers to her lists in the last five months.
The receipts of the Society, the first year, were S4,000. Last year they were $50,000. This year, from last October to the end of this month of May, they foot up $67,000. It is good stock.
Mr. Rising got up the Children's American Missionary Society himself, and it is flourishing. A yearly membership costs 50 cents, and a life membership $10. To each is given an exquisite chromo-lithographic certificate worth double the money. Every three months a children's illustrated paper is issued and for warded to the members of the Society gratis. The membership is immense, naturally enough, because nothing pleases a child so much as to be a member of something or other. Your rightly constituted child don't care shucks what it is, either. I joined the Cadets of Temperance, once, when I was a boy. That was an awful take-in; no smoking or anything allowed - not even any bad language; but they had beautiful red scarfs. I stood it three months, and then sidled out. I liked the red scarfs well enough, but I could not stand the morality.
But, as I was saying about this Children's Missionary Society, (Bishop Lee, of Iowa, is the President of it,) they just turn out the Society every now and then for drill and to recruit, and the young people come forward in armies. They filled Steinway's Hall here on the 24th of April; on the 17th of May they filled Concordia Building, in Baltimore; and on the 18th they crammed the Academy of Music in Philadelphia. And what do they do? Sing! Sing like all possessed - 2,000 voices in chorus! They sing - and they join the Society - and they badger their parents for pennies to contribute. Because you know a child likes to contribute to things. I know about these things, because when I was young I never could keep a cent; I used to bet it away on the missionaries and come home broke every Sunday regularly. And so with these children. It is well. The pennies come from their fathers, and go to a good and worthy cause, instead of being spent for liquors and other luxuries. There is good sense in it. These unthinking children - however, that is a slander, for I believe they do think some, and feel more heartily, and take a warmer, a hotter interest in their benevolent enterprises than the large majority of adults do - are doing much to send the gospel abroad into the waste places of the land, and will do vastly more yet, for this flourishing new Society is nothing, either in numbers, ability or influence, to what it will be a few years hence. Come, do your share towards moving it along.
Now I have got down to the Evangelical Knowledge Society. (How these Societies slather the syllables around, don't they? If the Prodigal Son's fortune consisted of seven jointed words, he could have come to New York and run through his property precious soon putting up names for religious Societies.) I haven't got the half of that name up there-I couldn't recollect it. The object of the Society is to publish and distribute books and all sorts of tracts for the use of the Evangelical some thing or other; my notes are blurred - but the books are for the use of the Church. The people I am writing for will understand what I mean. I am rusty on these matters, but I am doing the best I can.
Rev. Dr. Dyer is Secretary of the Society. The organization is twenty years old, and during that time has printed and published some six hundred different works - large editions of each. It publishes the Book of Common Prayer in several different sizes, and also a book called the Mission Service, which is a prayer-book with the Church service attached, and is intended for the use of straggling communities in out-of-the-way places, where people become unfamiliar with the routine of the service. Last year the Society issued 10,500 copies of the Prayer Book, and 10,000 copies of the Mission Service. They began to publish these books eight years ago, and since that time they have issued over 140,000 copies of the former and 100,000 of the latter.
This Society works in harmony with the American Church Missionary Society, and Dr. Dyer is Corresponding Secretary for both. One association sends out the printed Word, and the other forwards a man to preach it.
The particular institution I am writing about publishes a couple of monthly periodicals - the Parish Visitor, for adults, and the Standard Bearer, for children. Their combined circulations reach somewhere in the neighborhood of 30,000 copies.
The total cash receipts of the Society last year, from all sources, were $40,000.
I believe I am done. I haven't had such a moral siege for a year. I will now go out and blackguard somebody till I begin to feel natural again.
P.S. - I am growing more worthy every day. I have mailed to Father Damon, in the Sandwich Islands, the Hawaiian History I stole from him a year ago. Everywhere I have been here in the States, the papers have mentioned my arrival in complimentary terms, and then published that crime against me - so as to put the hotel-keepers on their guard, I suppose. The consequence was I haven't been able to carry off a solitary spoon yet. But I have yielded to the pressure, and sent the book home.
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