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For our fifth week in our Treasures From Woodstock Theological Library series, we have the Carey Bible. Published in 1790 by Mathew Carey, it’s namesake, the Carey Bible was the first Catholic bible to be published in America. With only an estimated 25,000 catholics living in the United States at the time, the Carey Bible was a risky venture for the publisher, but strongly supported by John Carroll, the future founder of our dear university, who originally signed up to receive 20 copies.
The Carey Bible was sold via subscription with 48 weekly parts at around 12 cents per installment and later bound by the purchaser. The text itself is not a new translation, but is a copy of the famed 1609 Douay-Rheims English Bible, which Woodstock Library also owns. Though close to 500 copies of the first edition were printed, it is estimated that only 35 survive. The Woodstock Library is lucky to own three copies of this historic text.
One of the interesting features of the Carey Bible for historians of American Catholicism is that the Bible also contains a page listing the subscribers and their locations. The list reads like a who’s who of Catholic families and ex-Jesuits (the society was suppressed at the time), and is a treasure trove of information. Subscribers range from laborers, merchants, priests, and two signers of the Declaration of Independence.
To study this text first hand we welcome you to visit our library.
Written by Adrian Vaagenes
Jackson, Joseph. “FIRST CATHOLIC BIBLE PRINTED IN AMERICA.” Records of the American Catholic Historical Society of Philadelphia, vol. 56, no. 1, 1945, pp. 18–25. JSTOR, JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/44209579.