Letters of George Borrow to Bible Society HTML version

Letter 16: 13th October, 1834
To the Rev. J. Jowett
(ENDORSED: recd. Nov. 14, 1834)
ST. PETERSBURG, OCT. 13TH (old style) 1834.
REVEREND AND DEAR SIR, - In pursuance of the promise given in my epistle
of last week, which I trust in the Lord you have received, I again address you. In
the first place I must intreat you to peruse and to read to the Committee the
enclosed Latin certificate penned by Mr. Lipoftsoff, a gentleman as little inclined
to be prodigal of praise, as was of old the learned Scaliger himself, to whom in
many points indeed, he bears no faint resemblance. In the second place, I must
inform you that a few hurried lines are all that I can afford to write at present; my
proof sheets are rushing in so fast that time is exceedingly precious to me, and I
grudge every moment that is not devoted to my Maker or to my great
Before this letter reaches you St. Mark's Gospel will have passed through the
press. The two remaining Gospels will be printed before the arrival of Christmas,
and by the first of May the entire New Testament, in the Mandchou language, will
have been published. I wish this intelligence to be communicated to the public,
who are at liberty, provided the Lord does not visit me with some heavy affliction,
to hold me culpable, if my assertion is belied by the event.
It is true that were I to pursue the common practice of editors, it would be
impossible to complete the work in less than two years; the quantity of proofs,
successively required for every sheet, fail not, in general, to retard the progress
of all such undertakings. My beloved friend Mr. Swan published in this city a
small tract in Mongolian; he found that it was absolutely necessary to demand six
proofs of every sheet, for in the second, nay the third proof, there were frequently
as many errors as in the first, from the compositors not being able properly to
read the corrections. But I never entrust the task of making alterations in the
press to other hands than my own. Having corrected the first proof at home, I
proceed to the printing office and rectify all errors myself. I consequently never
require more than two proofs; the second, which I generally show to Mr.
Lipoftsoff, is frequently faultless. I am so perfectly convinced of the excellence of
this plan, that it is my firm intention to pursue it in whatever foreign, or even
English works, it may be my destiny to edit.
I wish now to say a few words upon a subject, on which I have previously said
something. At the present moment my principal inducement to such a step is the
observation every now and then made to me, both by Christians and no
Christians, namely: 'You are printing Testaments for which you will never find
readers. Do not tell us that you can distribute them at Canton and its environs, or
on the coasts of China; there are not ten individuals amongst a million of the