Today, glance through a potpourri of book releases, important dates, and defining events that make up book publishing in general and Christian publishing specifically. Not all the books or events are “Christian” in nature, but their presence created historical markers to give perspective. (I stopped at 2010 since events and books take time to become true historical markers.)
1440 – German Johann Gutenberg invents movable type by developing foundry-cast metal characters and a wooden printing press
1455 – Gutenberg printed his first book, a Latin Bible
1611 – King James Version (KJV) of the Bible first published
1798 – Thomas Nelson Publishers founded in England
1828 – American Dictionary of the English Language (Noah Webster)
1859 – A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
1869 – War and Peace (Leo Tolstoy)
1870 – Revell Publishing founded by Fleming H. Revell, the brother-in-law of Dwight L. Moody
1873 – Charles M. Barnes started a book business from his home in Wheaton, Illinois
1875 – David C. Cook Publishing founded
1880 – Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Lew Wallace)
1885 – Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain)
1891 – Broadman & Holman (B&H) Publishing founded
1894 – Moody Publishers founded
1902 – The Tale of Peter Rabbit (Beatrix Potter)
1908 – Anne of Green Gables (Lucy Maud Montgomery)
1911 – Eerdmans Publishing founded
1917 – William Barnes (son of Charles, see 1873)) founded Barnes & Noble with G. Clifford Noble
1926 – The Book-of-the-Month Club was founded
1931 – Zondervan Publishing founded
1936 – Gone with the Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
1937 – The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
1938 – Our Daily Bread founded
1939 – The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
1939 – Baker Publishing founded
1941 – Christian Literature Crusade founded
1945 – Guideposts founded
1947 – The Diary of Anne Frank (Anne Frank)
1947 – InterVarsity Press founded
1949 – Kregel Publications founded
1950 – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis)
1952 – Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
1956 – Bethany Fellowship Publishers founded (later renamed as Bethany House Publishers)
1957 – The Cat in the Hat (Dr. Seuss)
1960 – To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
1962 – A Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L’Engle)
1962 – Tyndale House Publishers founded
1964 – Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Roald Dahl)
1969 – The Very Hungry Caterpillar (Eric Carle)
1973 – New International Version (NIV) of the Bible first published
1974 – Harvest House Publishers founded
1975 – NavPress founded
1975 – Strang Communications (Charisma House) founded
1978 – Christian Book Distributors founded (now christianbook.com)
1979 – Crossway Books founded
1979 – Love Comes Softly (Janette Oke)
1983 – New King James Version (NKJV) of the Bible first published
1985 – This Present Darkness (Frank Peretti)
1989 – The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen R. Covey)
1992 – The Five Love Languages (Gary Chapman)
1994 – Amazon.com founded
1996 – Left Behind (Jerry B. Jenkins & Tim LaHaye)
1996 – New Living Translation (NLT) of the Bible first published
1997 – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (J.K. Rowling); Sorcerer’s Stone in US
1999 – Self-publishing on the Internet began
2002 – The Purpose Driven Life (Rick Warren)
2003 – The DaVinci Code (Dan Brown)
2004 – The Steve Laube Agency founded
2004 – Jesus Calling (Sarah Young)
2007 – The Shack (William P. Young)
2007 – Amazon released Kindle for eBooks
2008 – English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible first published
Dan, I’d perhaps include ‘The Hunt For Red October’, published in 1984; though not the first technothriller (many of the works of Alistair Maclean and Michael Crichton predated it), Red October certainly played a role in defining the current version of the genre.
Andrew Greeley’s ‘The Cardinal Sins’ may also be worthy of inclusion. Love Greeley or hate him, he surely opened the Chicago Irish-Catholic world to a secular readership, and changed many hearts, including my own.
Ships of words were set to sail
upon a sea of typeset ink,
built with blood, sweat, and travail,
their likely fate to sink…
but Lo!, we spy a lofty mast
rise up horizon’s curve,
canvas set long in the past,
but wearing now with verve
against the force of time and tide,
against the wind of fashion
with determined antique pride
in creak of rope and lashing
that shows in laughter and in tears
wise influence of olden years.
Wow. I have been enlightened. Thanks for sharing.
As a children’s book author and elementary school librarian, I love how many of the important books in your list are children’s books! They are still being checked out, read, and loved all these years later. It speaks to how important it is for Christians to study the craft and write books that will capture children’s attention.
Brilliant; thank you.
Kristen Joy Wilks
So fascinating to look back on these amazing milestones for the written word in our world!
Quite interesting to see this historical flow… Thanks, Dan! By the way, I believe the correct year for the ESV being first published is actually 2001, rather than 2008.
*** (It was the ESV STUDY Bible that was first published in 2008. But the Bible text itself first came out in 2001.)
As a lover of books, a history buff, and a preserver of heritage especially Christian heritage, this list is much appreciated. Dan did an excellent job in this compilation. It is not meant to be comprehensive. But an historical list such as this even without comments still provides some lessons for the reader. Thank you Dan.
This was really interesting, Dan. I had no idea some publishers went back so far or how some began as family businesses. I also liked that you put the Very Hungry Caterpillar and other milestone children’s books in!
Yes, The Very Hungry Caterpillar has sold over 40,000,000 copies since first release. Charlotte’s Web over 50,000,000. Pretty impressive numbers for sure.
Those are such impressive numbers, but well-deserved!
William E. McBride
WOW. Most of the titles I have heard. I need to put great books on my Bucket List.
— Bill McBride– The ROOT of all EVIL
Wow. Interesting History! Thank you!