ROTHERHAM'S REMINISCENCES - CHAPTER 7
CHAPTER 7. - EXPERIENCES AS PUBLISHER'S EDITOR AND "CORRECTOR OF THE PRESS."
Thirty-seven years in a large Printing Works - Some hints to would-be writers for the Press - The issue of the Revised Version, 1881-5 - J.B.R.'s articles on the R.V. in "Public Opinion," etc.
The writer of these "Reminiscences" says:-
"My evangelistic life terminated with the year 1868, not, indeed, as if that fact brought to an end my religious activities, but it necessarily circumscribed them. I was so fortunate as then to find congenial employment, first, with Messrs. James Sangster and Co., London, as publisher's editor, for nearly six years ; and afterwards with Messrs. Bradbury, Agnew, and Co., also of London, as Press Corrector, for upwards of thirty-one years. Happily, the literary tastes previously developed formed a nexus for the new departure. On the other hand, it is satisfactory to reflect that the novelty of my new life did not tempt me to cease preaching the Word as I was able, nor blunt the edge of my interest in biblical pursuits; while at the same time valuable experience in new directions was thrust upon me, none of which, I think, has been lost.
"In the work entrusted to me by the genial James Sangster, of Paternoster Row, in watching over the reprinting of Kitto's Bible and in editing an edition of Bunyan's works, useful experience was gained which facilitated entrance upon the employment which occupied by far the longest unbroken portion of my life. I look back with no small satisfaction to those thirty-one and a half years spent with Messrs. Bradbury, Agnew, and Co. In the first place, one cannot forget the sons of toil with whom for so long he was brought into contact.
"But what can he say of his 'brethren and companions' in the honourable profession of 'Correctors of the Press'? The first thing he is inclined to say is, 'Of whom the world is not worthy.' But then his sense of justice prompts him to add, as a strongly qualifying rider, 'Of whom the world is profoundly ignorant!' As a rule, even master printers get less credit than
they deserve; seeing that complacent authors are usually more indebted to the printers for the handsome presentment of their thoughts to the public eye than they themselves are at all aware. But who are the knowing and watchful ones that enable printers to do this service? Occasionally an author becomes aware that there must be someone at the other end who knows a little about the very things of which he deemed himself the privileged guardian; and now and then discoveries are allowed to be made to mutual gratification: as where, for example, I was summoned to be introduced to the author of` 'The King and the Kingdom,' who was pleased to admit his satisfaction that at the printer's end of the process of production was someone familiar with his chosen theme. Such introductions are infrequent; but the mutual helpfulness of 'readers' among themselves, where establishments are of any size, is in continual exercise. Among these the spirit of camaraderie is naturally strong; and I am glad to acknowledge the long years of helpful courtesy shown me by my brother readers.
"Naturally, however, the chief fruit of my long experience in a printing office appears to my partial eye to be the typographical production of my 'Emphasised Bible' for, while the literary labour bestowed on that work was confined to my leisure hours, my daily presence in the printing office enabled me to obtain expert advice which would probably not have been dreamt of, far less obtained, but for my ready access to friendly practical men. When the reader is informed that the cost of the underscoring device pursued in the production of the first and second editions of my New Testament would have been practically prohibitive of the appearance of the whole Bible on the same plan; and that, guided by the expert advice obtained as mentioned above, the set of emphasising marks ultimately decided upon could be picked up with the same facility as ordinary type, thereby materially reducing the expenditure, he may begin to apprehend how it is that I cherish the fond persuasion that, if I had not been providentially introduced into a printing office, 'The Emphasised Bible' would have never seen the light! How precious the result is in my own eyes, for purposes of exposition, could only be known by a frank comparison of notes with Biblical expositors - to whom I am satisfied I should be forced to protest in behalf of my own work
in terms used by David of the sword of Goliath: 'There is none like it!'
"My press experiences may be utilised for the purpose of making a few suggestions to budding authors which, I think, may be of service. First, then, I would say, do not be above writing a clear hand. If you knew how the compositor's bless you when you do this, you would feel rewarded for the pains you take to give them, and yourself, this initial advantage.
The time that is spent in a printing office in attempts to make out undecipherable words is enormous - with consequent loss of time and temper, and either increased expense to fall on someone or else unrequited labours inflicted on those who can ill bear the additional burden. Second, learn to punctuate your own compositions. If you will only master this fine art, and school yourself to think accurately throughout every sentence, you may as well think commas as write sense. Third, after you have otherwise completed your article, chapter, or book, read it over again very carefully - as nearly as possible with the eyes of a stranger unfamiliar with your subject. I may conclude these utilitarian remarks by recording as an interesting piece of information that a well known judge, who was also an author, after inspecting the progress of his own book in the composing-room, confessed that he had no idea how much trouble he was causing the printers. Methinks that judge has a large following!
"Returning to the affairs of the outer world, and recalling the circumstance that during my thirty-one and a half years' employment in correcting the press, it fell to my lot to read a considerable share of works in 1aw and medicine, I may be allowed to record the strong impression thereby made on my own mind that men of Biblical and theological pursuits would be very much the better of a stiff course of reading in other studies than their own. It is useful to observe how doctors are compelled to judge of a patient's symptoms in their entirety, and are thereby saved from driving analysis to death; and it is a legitimate use of refinement of language when a judge carefully leaves himself an easy chance to change his mind by the delicately-balanced words, 'The present inclination of my opinion:' a useful lesson, surely, for any theological circle in which even 'opinions' are forbidden to grow; and wherein are kept forcing-beds for the culture of dogmatists, who are
not allowed to think - only permitted to know. As if, indeed, 'opinions' were not knowledge in the making! Is it not 'greatly wise' rather to hold that 'knowledge grows from more to more.'
THE REVISED VERSION, 1881-5.
The decade which followed the year 1880 was marked by a succession of events which claimed a good deal of my father's attention and influenced greatly his after life. He had followed with the keenest interest the work of the eminent scholars who for ten years had been engaged in the Jerusalem Chamber at Westminster on the work of Bible Revision. In many addresses and articles he forecasted what might be expected when the Revisers had finished their work, warning his fellow-students against expecting too much, but confidently anticipating some changes which he considered of great importance
In June, 1881, the Revised New Testament was issued, and four years afterwards the Old Testament Company completed their work, and on May 5th, 1885, the complete Revised Bible was in the hands of the public.
As might be expected, the issue of the R.V. created a good deal of interest amongst the Bible-loving portion of the community, both in this country and in the United States. On the day of publication the whole of the New Testament was cabled to the States, and appeared on the following day as a supplement to a Chicago daily paper, and there being no international copyright to prevent it, many editions of the Revised Version were promptly produced in the United States. It is much to be regretted that when, in 1901, the American Revised Version was issued, the sale of the book (by the influence of our Universities) was declared contraband in this country, and technically remains so to this day. A friend in Philadelphia presented my father with a copy of the American R.V., handsomely bound in seal and lined with silk, and the recipient of the gift, after careful examination, concluded that in some important matters the American Revisers had surpassed our own Revised Version.
In my father's public addresses at this time he frequently referred to the Revised Version, calling attention on the one hand to what he regarded as improvements and felicities of renderings, and on the other hand gently upbraiding the
Revisers for their want of courage and failure to do what, in his opinion, "they ought to have done."
Amongst the weeklies of forty years ago Public Opinion occupied a prominent place. This journal appointed a Revision Editor, and devoted several pages every week for a considerable time to correspondence regarding the Revised Version. Such well-known scholars as Dr. Sanday, Bishop Moule, G. Washington Moon, and J. Agar Beet (to name only a representative group out of many more), contributed lengthy and learned articles to Public Opinion. To this plebiscite my father added a series of articles on "The Epistle to the Hebrews," as seen in the Revised Version. These articles were signed "Bryant," and this writer was described by the Revision Editor as "a distinguished Translator of the New Testament." In the Newspaper Room at the British Museum the writer of these notes has been able to examine this series of articles, and through the courtesy of the present Editor of Public Opinion he has been able to obtain typewritten copies of them. The following passage forms the conclusion to the articles mentioned:-
NOTE ON HEBREWS XI. 1, &c.
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the proving of things not seen."
"So stands this famous verse in the text of the Revised Version. But the margin has alternate renderings, which would make the passage read, 'Now faith is the giving substance to things hoped for, the test of things not seen.' The American Revisers record their preference for the following version of the passage, 'Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.' This last is what for some years I had understood the passage to mean; and my prepossessions were wholly in its favour. It is a simple, clear, self-consistent rendering. But my high regard for our British Revisers has compelled me to pause over their work, though it does not look very satisfactory, and ask myself what can have been the influences acting upon their minds? My conclusion is that the former of their marginal variations has something valuable in it. The latter ('test') appears to me not so near the truth as 'proving,' and even this, though probably looking in the right direction, does not seem to be quite the word. Taking
into account certain verbal difficulties standing in the way of an English version that shall be at once literal and idiomatic, looking also steadily at the whole context, which is so ample as to afford no small assistance, I venture to record my wish that the English Revisers had given us, at least in the margin, the following rendering: 'Now faith giveth substance to things hoped for, certainty to things not seen.' That would have been a good, sound piece of English, in the first place; in the next it would have been quite as clear and self-consistent as the American suggestion; and, finally, it would probably have been in deeper accord with the whole chapter which it introduces. The foregoing criticisms will serve better than any profession I can make to show the measure of impartiality which I have been able to maintain in this examination. Suffice it, therefore, simply to add the following facts: - First, proceeding methodically through this Epistle for the purpose of taking note of changes for the better, I marked 142 distinct improvements, all of them worthy of recognition, and some of the greatest value. Going through a second time, in the very same fashion, for the purpose of observing faults, I found 37 defects ; most of them leaving us as we were, with the old words untouched; several of them giving the desired rendering in the margin; some of them confessedly difficult places in which critics are not agreed; about three only of the whole number being really vexatious as cases of meddling without much mending, where yet the way was clear to great improvement."
The Public Opinion articles present a concrete example of the microscopic care my father was wont to give to the examination of critical points relating to words and phrases, and also serve to show his high appreciation of the Revised Version.
JOSEPH BRYANT ROTHERHAM INDEX