Hartford: American Publishing Co., 1876. First edition. First appearance of the Julia Smith translation, one of 950 copies bound in cloth from a total issue of 1,000. Dark brown cloth ruled in blind and titled in gilt with gilt spine. Red speckled edges. Buff endpapers. Collates complete: , [1-3], 4-892, [1-3], 4-276. (Pagination restarts at 1 for the New Testament.) Some gentle rubbing to the boards, but in all a surprisingly bright, fresh, fully unrestored copy of the first full translation of the Bible ever published by a woman.
"Of all the Biblical scholars and translators to have worked on the Bible, Julia Evelina Smith is said to be the most interesting and most overlooked. A self-published professional translator and American women's suffrage activist, Smith was the first woman to translate the Bible, doing it from its multiple original languages into English" (Mota). Together with her sister Abby, a self-trained poet and linguist, she independently funded the project in its entirety. Not surprisingly for sisters who were "engaged in the tax resistance and suffrage movements in Connecticut, where the pair were born," Julia and Abby approached their work as activists as well as scholarly and spiritual in nature. After all, Julia wanted the project to support the cause of equality and "hoped to demonstrate that women should have the right to vote because they were not intellectually inferior to men" (Speedie). The project also posed an opportunity for supporting women as craftspeople and business owners, showcasing their capability for producing fine material books. To this end, Julia "selected a publishing house where the typesetting, operation of the presses, and editing were all done by women" (Speedie). Their publication inspired action on multiple fronts, not least of all in prompting "a much more aggressively ideological treatment of the Bible, The Woman's Bible (1895). Edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the most vociferous promoters of women's suffrage, this book consisted of a series of excerpts from the Bible which were deemed to concern women, and were accompanied by commentaries written by Bible experts, scholars...a notable feature of the remarks on the roles and images assigned to women in the traditional Bible is their reliance on Smith's Bible as an authority" (von Flotow). In her appendix, Stanton declared that "Julia Smith's translation stands out unique among all translations. It is the only one ever made by a woman." In every sense, the sisters created a “feminist Bible” that remains a milestone in women’s history (Stern). (Item #4497)