Jane Aitken

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Jane Aitken
BornJuly 11, 1764
DiedAugust 29, 1832(1832-08-29) (aged 68)[1]
ResidencePhiladelphia, Pennsylvania
OccupationPrinter, bookbinder
Parent(s)Robert Aitken, Janet Skeoch

Jane Aitken (July 11, 1764 – August 29, 1832) was an early American printer, publisher, bookbinder, and bookseller.


Aitken was born in Paisley, Scotland, on July 11, 1764.[1] She was the first of four children (two girls and two boys) that grew to adulthood in the family.[2] Her father was Robert Aitken (1734–1802), a Scottish stationery and book merchant who later became a Philadelphia printer and bookbinder.[3] Her mother's maiden name was Janet Skeoch. Aitken and her family were among several Scottish families that emigrated to Colonial America in 1771.[4] The Aitken family settled in Philadelphia, their port of importation.[4]

Business career[edit]

Aitken was involved with her father's Philadelphia publishing business, which consisted of a print shop and bindery.[1] Her handwritten bookkeeping shows the print shop printed a newspaper, journals, books, and stationery.[4]

She inherited the printing business from her father's estate after his death in 1802 when she was thirty-eight years of age.[1] The publications were there after in her own name as Printed by Jane Aitken from her printing business, which she ran on Third Street in Philadelphia. Her father's estate came with a heavy debt that was incurred from notes he had signed for.[5] The debt was $3,000.[6] Her brother, Robert Aitken Jr., who was a year younger than she and had been disowned by their father, was financially incapable to assist in this debt.[5] Jane, being the oldest child, assumed the responsibility of caring for her two younger sisters, as her mother had previously died.[6] She never married.[1]

Aitken's bookbinding business sometimes gave more support to the family than the actual printing part of the business.[6] She bound many of the author's books she printed up, work for the Athenaeum of Philadelphia and some 400 volumes for the American Philosophical Society.[4]

Binding work of the 1780s to 1802 from her father's shop shows similarity to her binding work she did from 1802 to 1812 and shows that perhaps she did most if not all the binding work from his shop when she was younger.[4]

Later life[edit]

John Vaughan, a friend of hers and a librarian from the American Philosophical Society, gave her much work and even some financial assistance, but her business failed in 1813 and her equipment was sold off.[3] Vaughan bought the equipment at a sheriff's sale and leased it back to her at under the going market rate, however after she failed again in 1814, she was put into debtors' prison at the Norristown Jail, 20 miles outside Philadelphia.[7] She basically is unheard of in historical records other than the "late printer" until her death record of 1832 appearing in an obituary in Germantown, Pennsylvania. Her burial place is assumed to be in the destroyed cemetery of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, of which she was a member.[7]


Aitken was the first woman in the United States to print an English translation version of the Christian Bible.[8][9][10][11][12]

This bible is known as Thomson's Bible, being translated by the famous US revolutionary Charles Thomson.


Aitken published at least sixty works from 1802 to 1812. Some of her works are:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Benowitz 1998, p. 6.
  2. ^ AncestryLibrary.com/Ancestry Family Trees of Robert Aitken (1062236441) and Jane Aitken (1062242472): Clements, Jeffrey William Family Tree
  3. ^ a b Read & Witlieb 1992, p. 13.
  4. ^ a b c d e James 1971, p. 26.
  5. ^ a b Krismann 2005, p. 20.
  6. ^ a b c d Appleby 2002, p. 41.
  7. ^ a b James 1971, p. 28.
  8. ^ Krismann 2005, p. 20 "Jane Aitken published over sixty books between 1802 and 1812. The most important was the four-volume Thomson Bible of 1808, a new translation by Charles Thomson. This was the first English Bible printed by a woman in America".
  9. ^ Read & Witlieb 1992, p. 13 "During the next ten years Jane Aitken published over sixty books, including the four-volume Thomson Bible. Translated by Charles Thomson, it was the first English translation of the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures.".
  10. ^ Kane 1997, p. 85, item 1966 The first bible translated into English in America was The Holy Bible, containing the old and new covenant, commonly called the Old and New Testament; translated from the Greek, issued in four volumes with unnumbered pages. It was printed in Philadelphia, PA, by Jane Aitken 1808.
  11. ^ Benowitz 1998, p. 6 "An early woman publisher, Jane Aitken was the first woman to print the Bible in the Unitei d States.".
  12. ^ Appleby 2002, p. 41 "Jane Aitken (1764–1832) was a bookseller and bookbinder who produced the only Bible ever printed by a woman in North America".


  • Appleby, Joyce Oldham (2002). Encyclopedia of women in American history. Sharpe Reference. ISBN 978-0-7656-8038-9.
  • Benowitz, June Melby (1998). Encyclopedia of American women and religion. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-87436-887-1.
  • James, Edward T. (1971). Notable American Women, 1607–1950: A Biographical Dictionary. Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-62734-5.
  • Kane, Joseph Nathan (1997). Famous first facts: a record of first happenings, discoveries and inventions in the United States. New York: H. W. Wilson Company. ISBN 0-8242-0930-3.
  • Krismann, Carol (2005). Encyclopedia of American Women in Business: A–L. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-33383-5.
  • Read, Phyllis J.; Witlieb, Bernard L. (1992). The Book of Women's Firsts: Breakthrough Achievements of Almost 1,000 American Women. Random House Information Group. ISBN 978-0-679-40975-5.

External links[edit]