Printed Words and Benevolent Books

I’ve always been fascinated by the power of the printed word as a communication tool throughout history. Significant research is available on this topic; however, I encourage you to dip into original, primary resources to add your own personal knowledge and beliefs to create new insight.

You can still research these topics online with an increasing number of libraries offering digitized materials. Of course, working with original print materials in person offers a deeper dive into these documents – and we’ll keep the light on until it is safe to visit!

Benevolent Books is the title of a book chapter written by David Paul Nord. In his work, Nord explores volunteer associations and societies during the early 19th century. These groups created new markets in mass communication with their religious publications.

Check this out! Baylor Libraries owns some of the original publications mentioned in this chapter as significant documents demonstrating the power of print.

Worcester, Noah. The Substance of a Pamphlet Entitled A Solemn Review of the Custom of War : Showing That War Is the Effect of Popular Delusion, and Proposing a Remedy. Stereotype edition., Printed by R. Clay …, 1830.

Baylor’s copy is a later edition of Reverend Worcester’s important work. Reverend Noah Worcester was a key figure building foundational literature for the American peace movement. You can access free online editions through several resources including here in HathiTrust: A Solemn Review…

Worcester excerpt 1817

Another volume owned by Baylor Libraries was published by the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. This society was founded in 1803 as the first American association devoted solely to publishing and distributing religious books and tracts.

Badger, Stephen. The Substance of Two Discourses on Intemperance; Delivered at Natick. Printed and sold for the Massachusetts Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, by Samuel T. Armstrong., 1811.

This publication is a sermon by Reverend Stephen Badger, a native of Natick, Massachusetts. While hundreds of these tracts were published, there are only a handful of original printed copies still in existence. Here is a snapshot of the final page that demonstrates an additional sales pitch for other publications.

Badger excerpt 1811

If you’d like to look at this copy online you can find it in Google Books: The Substance of Two Discourses on Intemperance

I hope you’ve enjoyed a peek into a couple of Baylor’s rich resources. If you are interested in more information about the collections, please send us an email at

Book referenced
Nord, David Paul (2010). Benevolent Books: Printing, Religion, and Reform. In Robert A. Gross & Mary Kelley (Eds.), A History of the Book in America : An Extensive Republic… (vol. 2, pp. 221-247). Published in Association with the American Antiquarian Society by The University of North Carolina Press : Chapel Hill.

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