Digital Traces of The American Baptist Publication Society Pamphlets

     I have been working with “Why a Baptist” by Wilder Perry, “Prayer and its Relation to Life” By Henry Melville King, and “The Importance of a Christian Education” by Henry E. Robins this semester. These three pamphlets were made by the American Baptist Publication Societyto be distributed to a vast audience. They were printed cheaply, and not necessarily as books that you would keep, but meant to spread a message and then be passed on. Finding traces of these books online took me through an adventure in failure of searching the Baptist Historical Society’s archives for records of these books and searching for family libraries from the authors. This lead me to the record of publishing for “Prayer and its Relation to LIfe”in The Cumulative Book Index, Volume 15compiled by Potter and Teich, but I still had no record of my other two works. At this point I turned to amazon and found an out of stock page for “Why a Baptist”and twelve buying options for a copy of “The Importance of a Christian Education”that were physical copies of a facsimile.

     One of the biggest struggles I faced when searching for a record of “Prayer and its Relation to Life” is that it’s author Henry Melville King, can easily confise a search engine into pulling up times where the considerably more famous Henry Melville wrote the word ‘king.”

     I finally did find a record of it though, in The Cumulative Book Index, Volume 15. I found a copy of this list on Google Books, and learned that it was a listingpublished by the H. W. Wilson Company during the twentieth century. The first volume was published in 1898 and the last in 1999. “Prayer and its Relation to Life” can be foundon page 404 about midway down the first column. It gives the author’s name, the title, and describes the book as “an address delivered before the Providence Baptist assn., in the First Baptist church Pawtucket, September 20, 1911.” Neither of my other pamphlets were in this work though, and I can only suppose that this might have something to do with length, “Prayer and its Relation to Life” is considerably longer than the other two works at 40 pages. It was interesting to see that at the time of its publishing this work was seen as important enough to include in this catalogue when, from what I can find, other pamphlets from the American Baptist Publication Society were not.

Clip From The Cumulative Book Index

     While I couldn’t find any digital facsimiles  of “The importance of a Christian Education” I was able to find two different physical facsimiles available for purchase on Amazon. There was a hard back option available from Scholar Select and a paperback option available from Classical Reprint Series; Forgotten Books. Both of these copies are described as facsimiles that tried to stay as close to the original as possible so they include records of stains, tears, or marginalia. These are all available through third party sellers on Amazon. I found it fascinating that there were groups who were willing to actually print and publish a facsimile, but not anyone willing to make it available online.

Back of Paperback Edition
Back of Hard Back Edition

     My search for “Why a Baptist” was the most fruitless of my endeavors. The only online presence that I can find for it is an out of stock Amazon page with the only description referencing an unknown binding and a length of 25 pages. I can however find a record of the author, Wilder Perry, in an article written about him in a local newspaper called Village Soup in Waldo County Maine. It was written by Barbara F. Dyer in 2010 and gives a brief biography of his life.

Searching for these books was incredibly interesting, and showed all of the different ways that a book can be traced online, even if a copy of it isn’t available. These pamphlets were religious documents that were made to distribute a message to a vast range of people at the time they were produced. They were printed cheaply with content that was made to be easy to understand not literary or academic. This is potentially one of the reasons that they have not been considered a text that should be made available online. My search for these documents made me consider the value we place in certain types of print culture of others, and what other documents have been left behind in the new world of digitization.