fol. B1r, Genesis
The Holy Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate: Diligently compared with the Hebrew, Greek, and other editions, in divers languages; And first published by the English College at Doway, Anno 1609. Newly revised and corrected according to the Clementine edition of the Scriptures. With Annotations for elucidating the principal difficulties of Holy Writ. Philadelphia: Carey, Stewart and Co., 1790.
Quarto. 2 vols. in 1 (viii, 487; 1280, *281284*, 281490 pages), 10 x 7½ inches. Roman. Bound in brown calfskin, panel design; new spine with red morocco label. Four-page list of subscribers names, including a Mr. Joseph Cooke, Philadelphia (3 copies); the Right Reverend John Carroll, Bishop of the Catholic Church in the United States (20 copies); Mark Wilcox, Esq. (6 copies); Capt. John Walsh, Philadelphia. Inscription on the verso of the last page of volume I: "John Walshs Book, September 22nd, 1793. Philadelphia County." § DMH 1343; Evans 22349; Hills 23. § CD-ROM: 12.4, title page; 12.4, inside back cover.
The publication of the first Catholic version of the Bible in the United States was a brave act by a brave man. There was little demand for such a volume, and it was a time of great intolerance.
It is reported that the printer-publisher Matthew Carey (17601839) declared that he would print a Catholic Bible if he could get 400 subscriptions. He succeeded in getting 491. At first he tried setting it in weekly parts, but shortly gave up this scheme and published the completed volume on 1 December 1790. He later published two issues of the Rheims-Douai in 1805, and three Catholic New Testaments in 1805, 1811, and 1816. To keep the firm going, however, he also published over sixty editions of the King James Version.
A manuscript leaf pasted inside the Ryrie copy of the book explains the publishing venture:
Note: It appears from an advertisement published in Carey and Stewarts Magazine 1789 that the subscription price of the Doway Bible was six Spanish milled Dollars, three paid on subscribing and three when the book was delivered. They advertised also that whereas some gentlemen thought the price rather high as compared with the Protestant version when offered by Collins at Four Dollars. It was necessary to note that Collins conditioned for an edition of 3000 copies, whereas Carey and Stewart were to put this Doway Bible to press whenever the subscription came up to 400 copies. G. J. Philadelphia Oct. 27,1870.
Carey was an Irishman who fought for the ideals of peace and independence, and was a peacemaker who did not avoid conflict, but was ready to resolve differences by reason and forgiveness. His nurse dropped him as an infant, inflicting an injury which crippled him for life. He had little formal education, but developed great skill in languages. When at the age of 19 he published a pamphlet in defense of Dublins apprentices, a reward was offered for his arrest. His family sent him to live in Paris for a while where he was befriended by Benjamin Franklin and the Marquis de Lafayette.
When he returned to Dublin he continued his journalistic labors, and his father set him up as proprietor of The Freemans Journal. Careys columns were strong in Irelands defense, harsh on England. In 1784 he was arrested and spent a short time in Newgate prison. Following his release, he escaped Ireland, disguised in womens clothing.
When he reached Philadelphia, his money almost gone, he received a gift of $400 from the gentleman who had assisted him in his earlier exile in Paristhe Marquis de Lafayette. Carey did not immediately find a mode of work in which he could prosper. After many struggles, he finally became quite successful as printer and publisher.
He developed a strong interest in economics where his views were protectionist. His attempts to bring Americans together after the War of 1812 were carried in the many editions of his book The Olive Branch.
In contrast to the reluctance shown by the Rheims New Testament translators (1582) to having the Bible in English, the American Catholic leadership wanted an American printed and published Catholic Bible. Today, Careys 1790 Vulgate has become one of the rarest of all early American Bibles.
Oh, by the way, General Lafayette was repaid at a time when he had fallen on very lean financial days.
Literature: Fogarty 1988; McNally 1966; Simms 1936.