Robert Aitken - A Famous Scottish Publisher
Robert Aitken (1734-1802) was a Philadelphia printer and the first to publish a Bible in the newly formed United States. Robert Aitken was born in Dalkeith, Scotland in 1734.
In 1769 Robert Aitken started in Philadelphia as a bookseller and in 1775 he started publication of The Pennsylvania Magazine. As early as 1777 Aitken had printed copies of the New Testament .
The war with England had cut off the supply of Bibles to the United States. On September 11, 1777, the Continental Congress instructed its Committee of Commerce to import 20,000 Bibles. On January 21, 1781, Aitken petitioned Congress to officially sanction a publication of the Old and New Testaments which he was preparing at his own expense. Congress replied that its members "highly approve the pious and laudable undertaking of Mr. Aitken, as subservient to the interest of religion ... in this country,"
In 1782, with the approval of Congress, Aitken published the first complete Bible in North America. Aitken's Bible was a King James Version called "The Bible of the Revolution" not because it was considered revolutionary but because the small size (6 inches by 4) enabled it to be carried in the coat pockets of Revolutionary War soldiers.
Robert's daughter, Jane Aitken, went on to become the first woman to ever print a Bible. Jane published the first non-King James version English language Bible ever printed in America (a translation into English by the Secretary of the United States Congress).
Robert Aitken died in Philadelphia in 1802.