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The Julia Smith Bible
Extraordinary Copy of First Feminist Bible
Smith, Julia E. The Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments; translated literally from the originals. Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1876.
First Edition, of the Julia Smith Translation, one of 950 copies in cloth from a total issue of 1000 (950 bound in cloth and 50 bound in leather). 8vo; 892pp; and 276pp. (Old and New Testaments). Brown gilt-stamped cloth with "The Holy Bible Translated by Julia E. Smith." On front panel and "Holy Bible" in gilt on spine; one lower corner a tiny bit bumped, else fine and a very handsome copy indeed - the nicest we've had.
Abby (1797-1878) and Julia Smith (1792-1886) were two of five daughters born to Zephaniah Hollister Smith and Hannah Hadassah Hickok Smith. Zephaniah, a Yale graduate, had left the Congregational ministry after concluding that it was against his conscience to receive money for preaching and joined the Christian sect founded in Scotland by John Glas (1695-1773) and his son-in-law, Robert Sandeman (1718-1771). Zephaniah was also a lawyer and farmer, and his wife Hannah was an amateur poet, linguist, mathematician and accomplished astronomer. Their daughters shared their independent thought and diversity of interests. While the five daughters had little formal education, their home education was formidable, including a number of languages. Their religious teaching was Sandemanian, following Glas's chief teaching of "Scriptural Authority of Independency". During the Revolutionary War, the Sandemanians were Royalists and from that time on were regarded with suspicion and mistrust. This aura of distrust in their small town may have been a factor in the famous "Abby Smith and Her Cows" incident.
In 1873 the two elderly sisters, then in their 80s, lived on the family farm in Glastonbury, Connecticut tending their Alderney cows from which they made their own cheese and butter. They received notice from the tax collector that taxes for their farm as well as property owned by two widows in town had been increased. Curiously, only properties owned by women had been assessed higher taxes. The Smith sisters decided to attend the next town meeting; though Abby was allowed to speak, her pleas regarding the unfair tax increase were ignored. The sisters decided to refuse to pay the taxes, being officially advised that if they paid the interest on the taxes while their appeals were being made, no court action would be taken.
This was not the case. The town promptly auctioned off their Alderney cows (raised more as pets than livestock). A neighbor of the sisters bid for them so the cows soon returned home. Abby and Julia continued to resist the unjust assessment against their farm, however. At the next town meeting, the sisters were not allowed to speak, and this time the tax collector foreclosed on their farm for non-payment of taxes and auctioned it off at a very low price far below the land's actual value.
The sisters sued the tax collector and as their suits were being adjudicated, Samuel Bowles of the Springfield, Massachusetts REPUBLICAN (the editor who first published Emily Dickinson's poetry) learned of their plight and took up their cause. Soon newspapers across the country were publishing accounts of how the Glastonbury town fathers first singled out two little old ladies for special taxes and then persecuted them when they raised the cry of 'No taxation without representation'. Suffrage leaders such as Abby Foster Kelley, Isabella Beecher Hooker, Lucy Stone and others weighed in on their behalf, and the sisters found themselves invited to speak at suffrage gatherings and elsewhere. Both sisters had attended a suffrage meeting in Hartford in 1869. (Although Simms states that "Julia made herself conspicuous early in a political way, in her championship of the Woman's Suffrage party, [does he mean Equal Rights Association and/or National or American Woman's Suffrage Association, founded after 1868?] rarely failing to attend their conventions, where she took a leading part.") Her participation during this famous tax suit is well documented in THE HISTORY OF WOMAN SUFFRAGE, VOL. III.
In retrospect, the support from suffragists was almost inevitable. Zephaniah and Hannah Smith were ardent abolitionists, as were all their daughters. When William Lloyd Garrison was barred from the Hartford churches, the Smith's arranged for Garrison to speak from a cart on their front lawn in Glastonbury. One of the earliest antislavery petitions presented before Congress was written by Hannah [Hadassah Hickok]. Julia was the local distributor for the Charter Oak, an anti-slavery newspaper. Their old colleagues would feel bound to come to their aid during this crisis late in their life. Eventually the sisters won their case. Julia compiled everything related to the case in a pamphlet, ABBY SMITH AND HER COWS which became a key women's rights document.
In 1876, Julia paid for the printing and publication of one (of her five: two from Hebrew, two from Greek, one from Latin) translations (completed some 20 years earlier) of the Old and New Testaments, thereby becoming the first and only person - male or female - to translate the entire Bible from the original Hebrew and Greek into English unassisted. She had done this from 1847-1856 for her own satisfaction, and it seems clear that the Sandemanian doctrine of "Independency" prompted this devout woman's desire for Scriptural truth. In addition, Emily Sampson (in HER WORKS SHALL PRAISE HER: THE BIBLICAL TRANSLATIONS OF JULIA E. SMITH) makes the telling point of the effect of William Miller, who predicted the end of the world in 1842. The Smith family appears to have been convinced of the rightness of Miller's predictions, and the shock of this "non event" (the world had not ended) affected Julia greatly. One has only to read her last entry in her diary, December 31, 1842, in which it is clear that she and her family expected a great cataclysmic even on January 1, 1843. After January 1843, she discontinued her entries in her daily journal which she had kept for the past 32 years (in French!). Her own search for truth in the Scriptures necessitated her own translation. She taught herself Hebrew, a friend (Samuel Jarvis, who had an extensive library which may have contained the original sources in Hebrew, Greek and Latin from which Julia translated) had advised that "Hebrew was a simple language, easily learned, as there was but one book of pure Hebrew in the world, and that was the Bible." Publication, at her expense, came about at the height of the "taxation without representation" cow controversy.
According to interviews, Julia thought publication of her translation would provide testimony of the accomplishments possible by a woman and possibly positively affect the outcome of the sister's suit. It has also been noted that the $1000 production costs would have been confiscated had it not been spent. In fact, Julia intended her translation to be a Feminist document. The American Publishing Co. (who published Twain) had the book typeset by a woman, the press run by a woman and the proof-reading done by a woman. There are indications this Bible was sold by canvassers, many (if not most) of whom were women. Called by wags at the time, "The Alderney Edition" it was the first feminist Bible.
While it is difficult to ascribe these motives to Julia at the time she was making the translation, it would be difficult to ignore her own stated aims when publishing the translation some 20 years after she had made it, which clearly were feminist. In 1879, one year after the death of Julia's last surviving sibling, Abby, Julia accepted the proposal of marriage from Amos A. Parker of Fitzwilliam, NH. He had ordered a copy of Julia's translation of the Bible and then traveled to Glastonbury to meet the translator. There are indications that the ensuing marriage was not happy.
Later, criticism centered on the "literalness" of her translation, which was that point of which she was most proud. In 1895 Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her committee published Part I of THE WOMAN'S BIBLE. In an appendix to that work, the claim was made the Smith's translation was the ultimate authority for their work. Emily Sampson discounts this, but it is interesting (even if it is untrue) that the claim was made. Julia Smith's incredible effort has been ignored and dismissed since publication. Only now is serious scholarship centering on the work itself. Complete comparisons between her translations and others have yet to be done. Stern, M. "The First Feminist Bible: The Alderney Edition, 1876" in "Quarterly Journal of the Library of Congress" 34, no. 1: 23-30. NAW III, pp, 302-304. Timelines, p. 29. Speare, E. in AMERICAN HERITAGE, June 1957. "Abby, Julia, and the Cows." Hastings, J. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF RELIGION AND ETHICS, Vol. VI, pp. 230-231. Lippy & Williams, ENCYCLOPEDIA OF THE AMERICAN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE, Vol. II, p. 845. Sampson, Emily. HER WORKS SHALL PRAISE HER: THE BIBLICAL TRANSLATIONS OF JULIA E. SMITH. Selvidge, NOTORIOUS VOICES: FEMINIST BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, 1500-1920. Simms, THE BIBLE IN AMERICA, p. 252, pp. 149-150. Housley, THE LETTER KILLS BUT THE SPIRIT GIVES LIFE. McNulty, M.G. GLASTONBURY: FROM SETTLEMENT TO SUBURB. Chapin, A. GLASTONBURY FOR 200 YEARS. (9862)
Please Note: This is a low-resolution photo, which shows the format, but makes reading the text nearly impossible. In reality, the text of these Bibles is large enough and clear enough to read very easily.
Item # JS1002
Appraisal Value: $20,000
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