Shortly after the
Bible Society of Philadelphia (now the Pennsylvania Bible Society) was formed in December 1808, the managers wanted to implement
a printing process used in England by the British
and Foreign Bible Society to mass produce Bibles called stereotyping. This method of printing was used
sparingly in the United States during the early
1800s but never for publishing Bibles. Considering the high costs of such an endeavor, the managers decided
to start off distributing Bibles purchased from Bible publishers in Philadelphia over its initial two years in operation. However the managers knew that utilizing
the stereotype printing method would greatly increase Scripture distribution in Philadelphia and around the country, the managers raised over $7,000* with help from all the existing bible societies in America and from the British and Foreign Bible Society between 1809 and 1811. Once all
the financing was gained an order for a set of stereotype plates was placed in Britain. However, getting the plates across the ocean and into the United States wasn’t without its issues. Since the U.S. and Great Britain were at war in 1812 there were tariffs placed on all imports from Britain and the U.S. customs house in Philadelphia was going to
charge the Bible Society thousands of dollars to allow the plates into the country. Not having the funds
to pay this fee, the managers petitioned to the state government and then to both houses of Congress for relief of these duties.
This relief passed both the house and the senate and the Bible Society was allowed to import these plates free of charge.
Once in the hands of printers thousands of Bibles were instantly printed and distributed to all parts of the country.
Eventually over 17,000 Bibles and New Testaments would be printed from these and future plates.
The forward-thinking of the managers placed the Bible Society at a unique advantage being the
first institution in the U.S. to use this printing process, which became the standard for printing Bibles in the decades to follow.
* $7,000 in 1811 is equivalent to over $96,000 in 2008.