Wednesday, 25 November 2015 Covers Theology on Tap

Last night, I delivered a talk entitled "Jonathan Edwards and the Power of Print" for the Camp House's lecture series, Theology on Tap. More than 100 people gathered to drink beer and listed to me gab about some of Jonathan Edwards's publications, most notably his Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God (1737), Religious Affections (1746), Misrepresentations Corrected (1752), and Freedom of the Will (1754).

In my talk, I explained that Edwards did not like the way that some of his most popular books were published, beginning with A Faithful Narrative. He complained bitterly about the mistakes on the title page of the first edition at London, which stated that the revival took place at Northampton and the neighboring towns and villages of New Hampshire (instead of Hampshire County, Massachusetts), and some of the editorial work within the book itself. As I explained in my talk, the irony is that had A Faithful Narrative not been published in London (the publishing epicenter of the English-speaking world), Edwards might not have achieved international fame as a revivalist and theologian.

Edwards also did not like the look of his Treatise Concerning Religious Affections, published at Boston in 1746. When he completed the manuscript for Freedom of the Will in 1753, he specifically instructed his literary agent Thomas Foxcroft not to have his next book published in the same manner as Religious Affections. Instead, he wanted Freedom of the Will to look like a previous book that he wrote entitled, Misrepresentations Corrected. The irony here is that Religious Affections was in many ways, a better looking book than Misrepresentations Corrected. The book that Edwards did not like, Religious Affections, had been published as a quarto edition on beautiful, white, watermarked paper that had probably come from Spain. By contrast, Misrepresentations Corrected was published in the less-impressive octavo format and on plain paper. Religious Affections was reprinted some ten times, including once in Dutch, during the eighteenth century, while Misrepresentations Corrected was published only once before the nineteenth century. In fact, Misrepresentations Corrected was Edwards's poorest-selling book.

Using several images in my presentation, I explained why Edwards touted the look of Misrepresentations Corrected. The basic reason is that he liked the generous margins and line spacing of this book. By contrast, Religious Affections was cropped very tightly, and had very little marginal space. Knowing that Edwards enjoyed writing in the margins of his books, it is clear why he liked the look of one book over another.

The day before my talk, a reporter from named Matt Pulford contacted me saying that he would like to write a piece on the Theology on Tap lecture series. Matt is a graduate of nearby Berry College. I scheduled a time to talk with him on the phone, and then I answered some questions at the end of my lecture. Matt expressed an interest in writing a synopsis for each of the Theology on Tap talks going forward, beginning with my lecture. Other than a typo in his article about Edwards ministry at "Newhampton," Massachusetts, I was very pleased with his article and the exposure that he provided for the Theology on Tap series. You can read his article here.

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