A 19th century Presbyterian publisher whose name you might know

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The subject of today’s post had an elder brother, William, who became a Presbyterian minister. The story is told, by Rev. William Hammil, the Principal of the Boys’ School at Lawrenceville, New Jersey, of William’s conversion, followed by that of his brother days later.

He [William] came to me,” says Mr. Hammil, “ and said, ‘I have found the Saviour, and I wish you would tell my companions.’ I said to him, ‘William, you had better tell them yourself. It will do them and you both good.’ He stood up and said, ‘My dear schoolmates, you have, perhaps, not understood why I have not been out upon the playground as much as usual for some days past. I have been seeking the salvation of my soul, and trust I have found my Saviour, and wish to tell you how much joy I have.’ After prayers, William came to me and said, ‘ I wish you would speak to my brother…, and pray for him.’ I promised to do so. Like Andrew the Apostle, he was desirous that his brother should see Jesus. In a few days, … his younger brother, was indulging a good hope of an interest in Christ.

James W. Alexander once wrote in a preface to his Discourses on Common Topics of Christian Faith and Practice that “The appearance of these Discourses is due to the kind importunity of the Publisher, once my pupil and since my esteemed friend, who has for several years asked this contribution.”

The man who would one day became a publisher whose name is known around the world studied at Princeton, graduating in 1840. After health issues derailed an initial venture into the legal profession, he instead went into the business of publishing books. His first base of operations was in meeting rooms leased from the Presbyterian Brick Street Chapel in New York City for $600 annually. Shepherd Knapp, Jr., in his sketch of this famous historical congregation, tells us that:

In 1846 another publishing house became the church's tenant, that of …, whose successors, …, and the present … have continued the firm's long relationship to the Brick Church by becoming the publishers of the principle works of the church's ministers during the last half century.

Charles Scribner Brick Chapel Church.jpg

J. David Hoevelter, Jr., in James McCosh and the Scottish Intellectual Tradition: From Glasgow to Princeton, p. 308), adds:

The firm had an eclectic list of works, but it excelled in high scholarly, and especially theological, works. These included books by Horace Bushnell, Henry B. Smith, Noah Porter, and others that especially illustrate the Princeton connection — Archibald and James Waddel Alexander, Charles Hodge, and then McCosh.

The list of works by Log College Press authors published by this man and his company is voluminous. Some of the names and titles can be noted on this Princeton chronology here. The publisher’s name remains well-known today, in the 21st century: Charles Scribner (1821-1871). Although he died at the age of 50, his work was carried on under the name Charles Scribner’s Sons. One of his sons, who later led the family business, was John Blair Scribner - named after a former Log College student, John Blair. His legacy has endured, and we at Log College Press are grateful for the many Presbyterian works that he and his family published during the 19th century.

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