An Introduction to the American Baptist Publication Society pamphlets

For my “pet book” I originally chose a pamphlet called “Why a Baptist” by Wilder W. Perry. It is small, 25 pages, and printed by the American Baptist Publication Society in 1912. I grew up in the Baptist tradition of Christianity, and this title caught my eye as something I could use to learn interesting facts that I could pull out around the Thanksgiving table. After spending some time with this work, and discussing some options with Professor Cook, I decided it would be best to add two other pamphlets, so I would have more material to work with. After some exploration Special Collections, I decided on “Prayer and its Relation to Life” by Henry Melville King, published in 1912 and “The Christina Idea of Education: as Distinguished from the Secular Idea of Education” by Henry E. Robins published in 1895. Both of these have similarities and differences to “Why a Baptist” that helps inform the histories of each separate work.

 “Why a Baptist” is the text of an address given by Colby graduate Wilder Perry. It has been refurbished into a hard pamphlet binding and held in by tape.

Pamphlet binding of “Why a Baptist”

This type of book handling was once seen as the best way to preserve a book but is no longer used because of the lack of reversibility. The outer cover is green, and heavily faded. It has two stickers on the outside, one with the title and author name and one with the call number from the old organization system used at Colby.

Title Page

The title page is simple with the main title “Why a Baptist” written in the largest font in all uppercase letters. The author’s name is smaller and is followed by a recognition of his bachelor and master’s degree. In the margin on the top of the page Wilder Perry has signed the book and his class year at Colby. Someone has written beside it to clarify that this is the author’s signature. The bottom right corner of the page has been torn off, and there is a small ink stain on the right edge of the page. This page is followed by a paragraph long preface and then the text of the work itself. The margins are large, and the font is simple. The final page of the book is printed with a simple advertisement explaining how to cheaply buy more copies of this work in bulk. PIC This combined with the tears, ink stains, and missing cover suggest that this was meant to be read for its content, not displayed for its beauty.

“Prayer and its Relation to Life” is another pamphlet published in 1912 and has a very similar format to “Why a Baptist.” It is also the text of a sermon given by Henry Melville King. It still has its cover, a faded green sheet that is missing several pieces and being held together by clear tape.

Outside of Front Cover

This helped to reveal the need for the pamphlet binding on “Why a Baptist.”

Title Page

Its title page is even less decorative, with the title, author’s name, and American Baptist Publication Society is the main information on the page, along with a small description of when and where this sermon was given. This pamphlet has no preface, it just immediately begins with the text on the following page. It is well worn, with pencil marks and small ink stains throughout, and 40 pages long. The back cover shows the top portion of a library card, with the ink stains of one date imprinted onto the page before it. Once again, this book seems cheap and focuses on the text of the sermon.


The final Pamphlet is “The Christina Idea of Education: as Distinguished from the Secular Idea of Education” by Henry E. Robins. It was published earlier than the previous two works and has a different format. It has a harder cover, with a black decorative covering that is flaking off at the edges. The title is written in gold on the front and the edges of the pages are colored burgundy.  The title page is as simple as the previous two, but between it and the text, there is a table of contents. The chapters are short, barely a few pages long, and they follow one after another on the same page instead of breaking to a new one at the start of each chapter.

Chapter Breaks

The most interesting find in this book was an envelope bound between the last two pages of the book. It includes several small, very thin papers, printed on in purple ink and haphazardly folded to fit into the envelope. I found out that these were made on a ditto machine, a copying device used through a significant amount of the twentieth century.

These pages are copies of reviews written by the presidents of several colleges, and a letter from the Bureau of Education thanking the author for his work. There was also an old library card tucked into the back page, with only one due date written on it. This book raised a lot of unanswered questions that I look forward to researching and discovering more about. These combined works come together to paint a picture of the purpose of the American Baptist Publication Society, and the culture of the people who bought them, and I am excited to dig deeper and finding out more of what they have to say.