Producing Bible Literature for Use in the Ministry
THE written word has played a vital role in true worship. Jehovah gave the Ten Commandments to Israel, first orally and then in written form. (Ex. 20:1-17; 31:18; Gal. 3:19) To ensure that his Word would be transmitted accurately, God commanded Moses and a long line of prophets and apostles after him to write.—Ex. 34:27; Jer. 30:2; Hab. 2:2; Rev. 1:11.
Most of that early writing was done on scrolls. By the second century C.E., however, the codex, or leaf-book, was developed. This was more economical and easier to use. And the Christians were in the forefront of its use, as they saw its value in spreading the good news about the Messianic Kingdom of God. Professor E. J. Goodspeed, in his book Christianity Goes to Press, states regarding those early Christians as book publishers: “They were not only abreast of their times in such matters, they were in advance of them, and the publishers of the subsequent centuries have followed them.”—1940, p. 78.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that Jehovah’s Witnesses today, as proclaimers of God’s Kingdom, have in some respects been among those in the forefront of the printing industry.
Providing Literature for Early Bible Students
One of the first articles written by C. T. Russell was published, in 1876, in the Bible Examiner, edited by George Storrs of Brooklyn, New York. After Brother Russell became associated with N. H. Barbour of Rochester, New York, Russell provided funds for publication of the book Three Worlds and the paper known as Herald of the Morning. He served as a coeditor of that paper and, in 1877, used the facilities of the Herald to publish the booklet The Object and Manner of Our Lord’s Return. Brother Russell had a keen mind for spiritual matters as well as business affairs, but it was Barbour who was experienced in typesetting and composition.
However, when Barbour repudiated the sin-atoning value of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, Brother Russell severed relations with him. So, in 1879 when Russell undertook publication of Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, he had to rely on commercial printers.
The following year the first of an extensive series of tracts designed to interest people in Bible truths was prepared for publication. This work quickly took on immense proportions. In order to handle it, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society was formed on February 16, 1881, with W. H. Conley as president and C. T. Russell as secretary and treasurer. Arrangements were made for the printing to be done by commercial firms in various cities of Pennsylvania, New York, and Ohio, as well as in Britain. In 1884, Zion’s Watch Tower Tract Society* was legally incorporated, with C. T. Russell as president, and its charter showed that it was more than a society that would direct publishing. Its real objective was religious; it was chartered for “the dissemination of Bible Truths in various languages.”
With what zeal that objective was pursued! In 1881, within a period of four months, 1,200,000 tracts totaling some 200,000,000 pages were published. (Many of these “tracts” were actually in the form of small books.) Thereafter, production of Bible tracts for free distribution soared to the tens of millions year after year. These tracts were printed in some 30 languages and were distributed not only in America but also in Europe, South Africa, Australia, and other lands.
Another aspect of the work opened up in 1886, when Brother Russell completed writing The Divine Plan of the Ages, the first of a series of six volumes that he personally penned. In connection with the publishing of the first four volumes in that series (1886-97), as well as tracts and the Watch Tower from 1887 to 1898, he made use of the Tower Publishing Company.* In time, typesetting and composition were done by the brothers at the Bible House in Pittsburgh. To keep expenses down, they also purchased the paper for printing. As for the actual printing and binding, Brother Russell often placed orders with more than one firm. He planned carefully, ordering far enough in advance to get favorable rates. From the time of the publication of the first book written by C. T. Russell down through 1916, a total of 9,384,000 of those six volumes were produced and distributed.
The publishing of Bible literature did not stop at Brother Russell’s death. The following year the seventh volume of Studies in the Scriptures was printed. It was released to the Bethel family on July 17, 1917. So great was the demand for it that by the end of that year, the Society had placed orders for 850,000 copies in English with commercial printers and bookbinders. Editions in other languages were being produced in Europe. In addition, that year some 38 million tracts were printed.
But then, during a period of intense persecution in 1918, while officials of the Society were unjustly imprisoned, their headquarters (located in Brooklyn, New York) was dismantled. The plates for printing were destroyed. The greatly reduced staff moved the office back to Pittsburgh to the third floor of a building at 119 Federal Street. Would this bring to an end their producing of Bible literature?
Should They Do Their Own Printing?
After the release of the Society’s president, J. F. Rutherford, and his associates from prison, the Bible Students assembled at Cedar Point, Ohio, in 1919. They considered what God had permitted to occur during the preceding year and what his Word indicated that they should be doing during the days ahead. Announcement was made that a new magazine, The Golden Age, was to be published as an instrument to use in pointing people to God’s Kingdom as mankind’s only hope.
As it had done in the past, the Society arranged for a commercial firm to do the printing. But times had changed. There were labor difficulties in the printing industry and problems in the paper market. A more dependable arrangement was needed. The brothers prayed about the matter and watched for the Lord’s leadings.
First of all, where should they locate the Society’s offices? Should they move the headquarters back to Brooklyn? The Society’s board of directors considered the matter, and a committee was appointed to check into the situation.
Brother Rutherford instructed C. A. Wise, the Society’s vice president, to go to Brooklyn to see about reopening Bethel and renting premises where the Society could begin printing operations. Desirous of knowing what course God would bless, Brother Rutherford said: “Go and see whether it is the Lord’s will for us to return back to Brooklyn.”
“How will I determine as to whether it is the Lord’s will for us to go back or not?” asked Brother Wise.
“It was a failure to get coal supplies in 1918 that drove us from Brooklyn back to Pittsburgh,”* Brother Rutherford replied. “Let’s make coal the test. You go and order some coal.”
“How many tons do you think I should order to make the test?”
“Well, make it a good test,” Brother Rutherford recommended. “Order 500 tons.”
That is exactly what Brother Wise did. And what was the outcome? When he applied to the authorities, he was granted a certificate to get 500 tons of coal—enough to care for their needs for a number of years! But where were they going to put it? Large sections of the basement of the Bethel Home were converted into coal storage.
The result of this test was taken as an unmistakable indication of God’s will. By the first of October 1919, they were once again beginning to carry on their activity from Brooklyn.
Now, should they do their own printing? They endeavored to purchase a rotary magazine press but were told that there were only a few of these in the United States and that there was no chance of getting one for many months. Nevertheless, they were confident that if it was the Lord’s will, he could open the way. And he did!
Just a few months after their return to Brooklyn, they succeeded in purchasing a rotary press. Eight blocks from the Bethel Home, at 35 Myrtle Avenue, they leased three floors in a building. By early 1920 the Society had its own printing shop—small, but well equipped. Brothers who had sufficient experience to operate the equipment offered to make themselves available to help with the work.
The February 1 issue of The Watch Tower that year came off the Society’s own press. By April, The Golden Age was also being produced in their own printery. At the end of the year, it was a pleasure for The Watch Tower to report: “During the greater portion of the year all the work on THE WATCH TOWER, THE GOLDEN AGE, and many of the booklets, has been done by consecrated hands, but one motive directing their actions, and that motive being love for the Lord and his cause of righteousness. . . . When other journals and publications were required to suspend because of paper shortage or labor troubles, our publications went smoothly on.”
The factory space was quite limited, but the amount of work done was amazing. Regular runs for The Watch Tower were 60,000 copies per issue. But The Golden Age was also printed there, and during the first year, the September 29 issue was a special one. It carried a detailed exposé of the perpetrators of the persecution of the Bible Students from 1917 to 1920. Four million copies were printed! One of the factory pressmen later said: ‘It took everyone but the cook to get that issue out.’
In the first year of their use of the rotary magazine press, Brother Rutherford asked the brothers whether they could also print booklets on that press. Initially, it did not appear to be feasible. The makers of the press said that it could not be done. But the brothers tried and had good success. They also invented their own folder and thus reduced their need for workers for that aspect of the work from 12 to 2. What accounted for their success? “Experience and the Lord’s blessing” is the way the factory manager summed it up.
It was not only in Brooklyn that the Society was setting up printing operations, however. Some of the foreign-language operations were supervised from an office in Michigan. To care for needs related to that work, in 1921 the Society set up a Linotype machine, printing presses, and other necessary equipment in Detroit, Michigan. There literature was printed in Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, and other languages.
In that same year, the Society released the book The Harp of God, which was written in a manner suitable for beginners in Bible study. As of 1921 the Society had not tried to print and bind its own books. Should they endeavor to undertake this work too? Again, they looked for the Lord’s direction.
Dedicated Brothers Print and Bind Books
In 1920, The Watch Tower had reported that many colporteurs had been forced out of that service because printers and bookbinders had been unable to fill the Society’s orders. The brothers at headquarters reasoned that if they could be free from dependence on commercial manufacturers with all their labor troubles, they would be in a position to accomplish a greater witness concerning God’s purpose for humankind. If they printed and bound their own books, it would also be more difficult for opposers to interfere with the work. And in time they hoped to be able to save on the cost of the volumes and so be in a position to make them more readily available to the public.
But this would require more space and equipment, and they would have to learn new skills. Could they do it? Robert J. Martin, the factory overseer, called to mind that in the days of Moses, Jehovah had ‘filled Bezalel and Oholiab with wisdom of heart to do all the work’ needed to construct the sacred tabernacle. (Ex. 35:30-35) Having that Bible account in mind, Brother Martin was confident that Jehovah would also do whatever was needed so that his servants could publish literature to advertise the Kingdom.
After much meditation and prayer, definite plans began to emerge. Looking back on what occurred, Brother Martin later wrote to Brother Rutherford: “Greatest day of all was the day when you wanted to know if there was any good reason why we should not print and bind all our own books. It was a breath-taking idea, because it meant the opening of a complete typesetting, electroplating, printing and binding plant, with the operation of more than a score of unfamiliar machines, mostly machines we never knew were made, and the necessity of learning more than a dozen trades. But it seemed the best way to meet the war prices charged for books.
“You leased the six-story building at 18 Concord Street (with tenants on two floors); and on March 1, 1922, we moved in. You bought for us a complete outfit of typesetting, electroplating, printing and binding machinery, most of it new, some of it second-hand; and we started work.
“One of the great printing establishments which had been doing much of our work heard of what we were doing and came, in the person of the president, to visit us. He saw the new equipment and sagely remarked, ‘Here you are with a first-class printing establishment on your hands, and nobody around the place that knows a thing about what to do with it. In six months the whole thing will be a lot of junk; and you will find out that the people to do your printing are those that have always done it, and make it their business.’
“That sounded logical enough, but it left out the Lord; and he has always been with us. When the bindery was started he sent along a brother who has spent his whole life in the binding business. He was of great use at the time he was most needed. With his assistance, and with the Lord’s spirit working through the brethren who were trying to learn, it was not long before we were making books.”
Since the factory on Concord Street had ample space, printing operations from Detroit were merged with those in Brooklyn. By the second year in this location, the brothers were turning out 70 percent of the books and booklets required, besides magazines, tracts, and handbills. The following year, growth in the work made it necessary to use the remaining two floors of the factory.
Could they speed up their book production? They had a printing press built in Germany, shipped to America, and put into operation in 1926 especially for that purpose. As far as they knew, that was the first rotary press used in America to print books.
However, the printing operations directed by the Bible Students were not all in America.
Early Printing Operations in Other Lands
Making use of commercial firms, Brother Russell had had printing done in Britain as early as 1881. It was being done in Germany by 1903, Greece by 1906, Finland by 1910, and even Japan by 1913. During the years following the first world war, a vast amount of such printing—of books, booklets, magazines, and tracts—was done in Britain, the Scandinavian lands, Germany, and Poland, and some was done in Brazil and India.
Then, in 1920, the same year that the Society undertook its own printing of magazines in Brooklyn, arrangements got under way for our brothers in Europe to do some of this work too. A group of them in Switzerland organized a printing establishment in Bern. It was their own business firm. But they were all Bible Students, and they produced literature for the Society in European languages at very favorable rates. In time, the Society acquired title to that printing plant and enlarged it. To fill an urgent need in economically impoverished lands of Europe at that time, tremendous amounts of free literature were produced there. During the late 1920’s, publications in more than a dozen languages were shipped from this factory.
At the same time, much interest in the Kingdom message was being shown in Romania. Despite severe opposition to our work there, the Society established a printing plant in Cluj, in order to lower the cost of the literature and make it more readily available to truth-hungry people in Romania and nearby countries. In 1924 that printery was able to turn out nearly a quarter of a million bound books, in addition to magazines and booklets, in Romanian and Hungarian. But one who had oversight of the work there proved unfaithful to his trust and committed acts that resulted in loss of the Society’s property and equipment. Despite this, faithful brothers in Romania continued to do what they could to share Bible truths with others.
In Germany following World War I, large numbers of people were flocking to the meetings of the Bible Students. But the German people were suffering great economic distress. In order to hold down the cost of Bible literature for their benefit, the Society developed its own printing operations there too. At Barmen, in 1922, printing was done on a flatbed press on the staircase landing in the Bethel Home and on another in the woodshed. The following year the brothers moved to Magdeburg to more suitable facilities. They had good buildings there, more were added, and equipment for printing and bookbinding was installed. By the end of 1925, it was reported, the production capacity of this plant was to be at least as great as the one then being used at the headquarters in Brooklyn.
Most of the printing actually done by the brothers started on a small scale. That was true in Korea, where in 1922 the Society set up a small printing plant equipped to produce literature in Korean as well as Japanese and Chinese. After a few years, the equipment was transferred to Japan.
By 1924 printing of smaller items was also being done in Canada and in South Africa. In 1925 a small press was installed in Australia and another one in Brazil. The brothers in Brazil were soon using their equipment to print the Portuguese edition of The Watch Tower. The Society’s branch in England got its first equipment for printing in 1926. In 1929 the spiritual hunger of humble people in Spain was being satisfied by publication of The Watch Tower on a small press there. Two years later a press began running in the basement of the branch office in Finland.
Meanwhile, expansion was taking place at the world headquarters.
Their Own Factory at World Headquarters
Since 1920 the Society had been renting factory space in Brooklyn. Even the building used from 1922 on was not in good shape; the whole thing would shake badly when the rotary press was running in the basement. Besides that, more space was needed in order to care for the growing work. The brothers reasoned that the available funds could be put to better use if they had their own factory.
Some land within a few blocks of the Bethel Home seemed to be a very desirable location, so they bid on it. As it turned out, the Squibb Pharmaceutical Corporation outbid them; but when they built on that property, they had to sink 1,167 piles in order to have a solid foundation. (Years later, the Watch Tower Society purchased those buildings from Squibb, with that good foundation already in place!) However, the land that the Society purchased in 1926 had good load-bearing soil on which to build.
In February 1927 they moved into their brand-new building at 117 Adams Street in Brooklyn. It provided them almost twice the space they had been using up to that time. It was well designed, with the work moving from the upper floors down through the various departments until it reached the Shipping Department at ground level.
The growth was not finished, however. Within ten years this factory had to be enlarged; and there was more to come later. In addition to printing millions of copies of magazines and booklets yearly, the factory was turning out as many as 10,000 bound books per day. When complete Bibles began to be included among those books in 1942, the Watch Tower Society was again pioneering a new field in the printing industry. The brothers experimented until they were able to run lightweight Bible paper on rotary presses—something that other printers did not try until years later.
While such large-scale production was under way, groups with special needs were not overlooked. As early as 1910, a Bible Student in Boston, Massachusetts, and one in Canada were cooperating to reproduce the Society’s literature in Braille. By 1924, from an office in Logansport, Indiana, the Society was turning out publications to benefit the blind. Because of very limited response at that time, however, the Braille work was terminated in 1936, and emphasis was placed on helping the blind by means of phonograph records as well as personal attention. Later on, in 1960, Braille literature again began to be produced—this time in greater variety, and gradually with better response.
Meeting the Challenge of Severe Opposition
In a number of lands, the printing was done in the face of extremely difficult circumstances. But our brothers persevered, appreciating that the proclamation of the good news of the Kingdom was work that Jehovah God, through his Son, had commanded to be done. (Isa. 61:1, 2; Mark 13:10) In Greece, for example, the brothers had set up their printery in 1936 and operated it for only a few months when there was a change of government and the authorities shut down their plant. Similarly, in India, in 1940, Claude Goodman worked for months to set up a press and learn how to operate it, only to have police dispatched by the maharaja swoop in, truck away the press, and dump all the carefully sorted type into large tins.
In many other locations, laws governing imported literature made it necessary for the brothers to give the work to local commercial printers, even though the Society had a printing establishment in a nearby country that was equipped to do the work. That was true in the mid-1930’s in such places as Denmark, Latvia, and Hungary.
In 1933 the German government, urged on by the clergy, moved to close down the printing activities of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Germany. The police occupied the Watch Tower Society’s factory at Magdeburg and shut it down in April of that year, but they could find no incriminating evidence, so they withdrew. Nevertheless, they intervened again in June. In order to continue the dissemination of the Kingdom message, the Society established a printery in Prague, Czechoslovakia, and considerable equipment was moved there from Magdeburg. With this, magazines in two languages and booklets in six languages were produced during the next few years.
Then, in 1939, Hitler’s troops marched on Prague, so the brothers quickly dismantled their equipment and shipped it out of the country. Some of it went to the Netherlands. This was most timely. Communication with Switzerland had become more difficult for the Dutch brothers. So now they rented space and, with their newly acquired presses, did their own printing. This continued for only a short time, however, before the plant was seized by the Nazi invaders. But the brothers had kept that equipment in use just as long as possible.
When arbitrary official action in Finland forced a halt in publication of The Watchtower during the war, the brothers there mimeographed the main articles and delivered these by courier. After Austria came under Nazi domination in 1938, The Watchtower was printed on a mimeograph machine that constantly had to be moved from place to place in order to keep it out of the hands of the Gestapo. Similarly, in Canada during the time that the Witnesses were under wartime ban, they had to relocate their equipment repeatedly in order to continue to provide spiritual food for their brothers.
In Australia during the time that the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was under ban, the brothers printed their own magazines and even printed and bound books—something they had not done there even under more favorable circumstances. They had to move their bindery 16 times to prevent confiscation of the equipment, but they managed to turn out 20,000 hardbound books in time for release at a convention held in 1941 in spite of overwhelming obstacles!
Expansion After World War II
After the war ended, Jehovah’s Witnesses met in international assembly in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1946. There Nathan H. Knorr, then president of the Watch Tower Society, spoke on reconstruction and expansion. Since the outbreak of World War II, the number of Witnesses had increased by 157 percent, and missionaries were rapidly opening up the work in new fields. To fill the global demand for Bible literature, Brother Knorr outlined plans to enlarge the facilities of the world headquarters. As a result of the proposed expansion, the factory would have more than double the space that was in the original 1927 structure, and a greatly enlarged Bethel Home was to be provided for the volunteer workers. These additions were completed and put to use early in 1950.
The factory and office facilities at the world headquarters in Brooklyn have had to be enlarged again and again since 1950. As of 1992 they covered about eight city blocks and included 2,476,460 square feet [230,071 sq m] of floor space. These are not just buildings for making books. They are dedicated to Jehovah, to be used in producing literature designed to educate people in his requirements for life.
In some areas it was difficult to get the Society’s printing operations under way again after the second world war. The factory and office complex that belonged to the Society in Magdeburg, Germany, was in the Communist-controlled zone. The German Witnesses moved back into it, but they were able to operate only briefly before it was again confiscated. To fill the need in West Germany, a printery had to be established there. The cities had been reduced to rubble as a result of bombing. However, the Witnesses soon obtained the use of a small printery that had been operated by the Nazis, in Karlsruhe. By 1948 they had two flatbed presses running day and night in a building that was made available to them in Wiesbaden. The following year they enlarged the Wiesbaden facilities and quadrupled the number of presses in order to meet the needs of the rapidly growing number of Kingdom proclaimers in that part of the field.
When the Society resumed printing openly in Greece in 1946, the electric power supply was far from dependable. Sometimes it was off for hours at a time. In Nigeria in 1977, the brothers faced a similar problem. Until the Nigeria branch got its own generator, the factory workers would go back to work at any time, day or night, when the power came on. With such a spirit, they never missed an issue of the The Watchtower.
Following a visit by Brother Knorr to South Africa in 1948, land was purchased in Elandsfontein; and early in 1952, the branch moved into a new factory there—the first actually built by the Society in South Africa. Using a new flatbed press, they proceeded to print magazines in eight languages used in Africa. In 1954 the branch in Sweden was equipped to print its magazines on a flatbed press, as was the branch in Denmark in 1957.
As the demand for literature grew, high-speed rotary letterpresses were provided, first to one branch and then another. Canada received its first one in 1958; England, in 1959. By 1975 the Watch Tower Society had 70 large rotary presses operating in its printeries worldwide.
A Global Network to Publish Bible Truth
In the late 1960’s and thereafter, a concerted effort was made to achieve further decentralization of the Watch Tower Society’s printing operations. Growth in the number of Jehovah’s Witnesses was rapid. More factory space was needed to provide Bible literature for their own use and for public distribution. But expansion in Brooklyn was a slow process because of limited available property as well as legal red tape. Plans were made to do more of the printing elsewhere.
Thus, in 1969 work began on the design of a new printery to be built near Wallkill, New York, about 95 miles [150 km] northwest of Brooklyn. This would augment and spread out the headquarters facilities, and eventually almost all the Watchtower and Awake! magazines for the United States would come from Wallkill. Three years later a second factory for Wallkill was on the drawing boards, this one much larger than the first. By 1977 the rotary letterpresses there were turning out upwards of 18 million magazines a month. As of 1992, large MAN-Roland and Hantscho offset presses (just 4 offset presses instead of the former 15 letterpresses) were in use, and the production capacity was well over a million magazines a day.
When plans for printing operations at Wallkill were first laid, The Watchtower was being published in Brooklyn in 32 of its then 72 languages; Awake! in 14 of its 26 languages. Some 60 percent of the total number of copies printed worldwide were being produced there at the world headquarters. It would be beneficial to have more of this work done in lands outside the United States and by our own brothers there instead of by commercial firms. Thus, if future world crises or governmental interference with the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses should hinder operations in any part of the earth, essential spiritual food could still be provided.
So it was that in 1971, nearly two years before the first Watch Tower factory at Wallkill went into operation, work got under way to provide a fine new printing plant in Numazu, Japan. The more than fivefold increase in Kingdom proclaimers in Japan during the preceding decade indicated that much Bible literature was going to be needed there. At the same time, the branch facilities in Brazil were being enlarged. The same was true in South Africa, where Bible literature was being produced in more than two dozen African languages. The following year, 1972, the Society’s publishing facilities in Australia were quadrupled in size, with a view to providing each issue of The Watchtower and Awake! in that part of the world without prolonged shipping delays. Additional factories were also erected in France and the Philippines.
Early in 1972, N. H. Knorr and the Brooklyn factory overseer, M. H. Larson, made an international tour to examine the work being done, in order to organize matters for the best use of these facilities and to lay the groundwork for more expansion to come. Their visits included 16 countries in South America, Africa, and the Far East.
Shortly thereafter, the branch in Japan was itself producing the Japanese-language magazines needed for that part of the field, instead of depending on a commercial printer. That same year, 1972, the branch in Ghana began to print The Watchtower in three of its local languages, instead of waiting for shipments from the United States and Nigeria. Next, the Philippines branch began to care for the composition and printing of The Watchtower and Awake! in eight local languages (besides printing English-language magazines that were needed). This represented a further major step in the decentralization of Watch Tower printing operations.
By the end of 1975, the Watch Tower Society was publishing Bible literature in its own facilities in 23 lands spread around the globe—books in three countries; booklets or magazines or both in all 23 locations. In 25 other lands, the Society was reproducing smaller items on its own equipment.
The Society’s capacity for producing bound books was also being increased. Some bookbinding had been done in Switzerland and in Germany as early as the mid-1920’s. Following World War II, in 1948 the brothers in Finland undertook the binding of books (at first, largely by hand) to care principally for the needs of that country. Two years later the branch in Germany was again operating a bindery, and in time it took over the bookbinding being done in Switzerland.
Then, in 1967, with over a million Witnesses worldwide and with the introduction of pocket-size books for use in their ministry, the demand for this type of Bible literature soared. Within nine years, there was more than a sixfold increase in bindery lines in Brooklyn. As of 1992 the Watch Tower Society had a total of 28 bindery lines operating in eight different countries.
In that same year, 1992, not only was the Watch Tower Society printing Bible literature in 180 languages in the United States but four of its major printeries located in Latin America were supplying much of the literature needed both domestically and by other countries in that part of the world. Eleven more printeries were producing literature in Europe, and all of these were helping to fill the literature needs of other lands. Of these, France was regularly supplying literature for 14 countries, and Germany, which printed in over 40 languages, was shipping large quantities to 20 countries and smaller amounts to many other lands. In Africa, six Watch Tower printeries were turning out Bible literature in a total of 46 languages. Another 11 printeries—some large, some small—were supplying the Middle East and the Far East, islands of the Pacific, Canada, and other areas with literature to use in spreading the urgent message about God’s Kingdom. In yet another 27 lands, the Society was printing smaller items needed by the congregations in order to function smoothly.
New Methods, New Equipment
During the 1960’s and 1970’s, a revolution swept through the printing industry. At an amazing rate, letterpress was being discarded in favor of offset printing.* The Watch Tower Society did not quickly jump on the bandwagon. Plates that were available for offset presses were not well suited to the long runs that the Society needed for its literature. Furthermore, a change of this sort would require completely new modes of typesetting and composition. New printing presses would be needed. New technology would have to be learned. Virtually all the printing equipment in the Society’s factories would have to be replaced. The cost would be staggering.
However, in time it became evident that supplies to support letterpress printing would not be available much longer. The durability of offset plates was rapidly improving. The change had to be made.
As early as 1972, because of their keen interest in developments in offset printing, three members of the Bethel family in South Africa purchased a small secondhand sheetfed offset press. Some experience was gained in doing small printing jobs on it. Then, in 1974, that press was used to print The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life, a pocket-size book, in the Ronga language. Their being able to do that quickly made it possible to get valuable Bible instruction to thousands of truth-hungry people before the work of Jehovah’s Witnesses was again banned in the area where those people lived. Another sheetfed offset press, given to the Society’s South Africa branch shortly after our brothers purchased the first one, was shipped to Zambia and was put to use there.
The Society’s factory in Germany also got an early start in offset printing. In April 1975 the brothers there began to use a sheetfed press to print magazines on Bible paper for Jehovah’s Witnesses in East Germany, where the Witnesses were then under ban. This was followed up, the next year, with production of books on that offset press for those persecuted brothers.
At about the same time, in 1975, the Watch Tower Society put its first web offset press for magazines into operation in Argentina. It ran for only a little more than a year, however, before the Argentine government banned the work of the Witnesses and sealed their printery. But offset printing operations in other countries continued to expand. Early in 1978, at the Watch Tower Society’s headquarters plant in Brooklyn, New York, a web offset press began to turn out three-color printing for books.* A second press was purchased in that same year. Yet, much more equipment was needed in order to complete the changeover.
The Governing Body was confident that Jehovah would provide whatever was needed in order to accomplish the work that he wanted to have done. In April 1979 and January 1980, letters were sent out to congregations in the United States explaining the situation. Donations came in—slowly at first, but in time there was enough to equip the entire global network of Watch Tower factories for offset printing.
In the meantime, to make good use of existing equipment and to speed up the changeover, the Watch Tower Society contracted to have its late-model MAN presses converted for offset printing. Twelve countries were supplied with these presses, including six that had not previously printed their magazines locally.
The branch in Finland was the first to do offset printing of each issue of its magazines in four colors, beginning in a simple way with issues in January 1981 and then progressively using improved techniques. Next, Japan used four-color printing for a bound book. Other Watch Tower printeries have followed suit as equipment has become available. Some of the presses have been purchased and shipped by the world headquarters. Others have been financed by Jehovah’s Witnesses within the country where the factory is located. In yet other cases, the Witnesses in one country have made a gift of needed equipment to their brothers in another land.
During the era following World War II, the world became very picture oriented, and use of realistic color did much to make publications more visually appealing. This use of color has made the printed page more attractive and therefore encouraged reading. In many places it was found that the distribution of The Watchtower and Awake! increased considerably after their appearance was thus enhanced.
Developing Suitable Computer Systems
To support four-color printing, a computerized prepress system had to be developed; and the decision to go ahead with this was made in 1977. Witnesses who were experts in the field volunteered to work at the world headquarters to help the Society meet these needs quickly. (Shortly after this, in 1979, a team in Japan that eventually involved about 50 Witnesses began work on programs needed for the Japanese language.) Available commercial computer hardware was used, and programs were prepared by the Witnesses to help fill the Society’s administrative and multilanguage publishing needs. To maintain high standards and have the needed flexibility, it was necessary to develop specialized programs for typesetting and photocomposition. There were no commercial programs available for entering and phototypesetting many of the 167 languages in which the Watch Tower Society was then printing, so the Witnesses had to develop their own.
At that time the commercial world saw no money in languages used by smaller populations or by people with very limited income, but Jehovah’s Witnesses are interested in lives. Within a relatively short time, the typesetting programs that they developed were being used to produce literature in over 90 languages. Concerning their work the respected Seybold Report on Publishing Systems said: “We have nothing but praise for the enterprise, initiative and insightfulness of the Watchtower people. There are few today either ambitious enough or courageous enough to undertake such an application, especially virtually from scratch.”—Volume 12, No. 1, September 13, 1982.
Printing operations and maintenance would be greatly facilitated if the equipment used worldwide was fully compatible. So in 1979 the decision was made for the Watch Tower Society to develop its own phototypesetting system. The team working on this was to make the principal hardware, instead of relying so heavily on commercial equipment.
Thus, in 1979 a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses with their base of operations at Watchtower Farms, Wallkill, New York, began to design and build the Multilanguage Electronic Phototypesetting System (MEPS). By May 1986 not only had the team working on this project designed and built MEPS computers, phototypesetters, and graphics terminals but, more important, they had also developed the software required for processing material for publication in 186 languages.
Coordinated with this software development was a large font-digitizing operation. This required intensive study of the distinctive characteristics of each language. Artwork had to be done for each character in a language (for example, each letter in capitals and lower case, as well as diacritical marks and punctuation—all in a variety of size ranges), with separate drawings for each typeface (such as, lightface, italic, bold, and extra bold), possibly in a number of distinctive fonts, or type styles. Each roman font needed 202 characters. Therefore, the 369 roman fonts have required a total of 74,538 characters. Preparation of Chinese fonts called for the drawing of 8,364 characters for each, with more characters to be added later.
After the artwork was done, software was designed that would make it possible to print the characters in clean, sharp form. The software had to be able to handle not only the Roman alphabet but also Bengali, Cambodian, Cyrillic, Greek, Hindi, and Korean as well as Arabic and Hebrew (both of which read from right to left) and Japanese and Chinese (which do not use alphabets). As of 1992 the software was available for processing material in over 200 languages, and programs for other languages used by millions of people were still being developed.
The implementation of the changeover in the branches required adopting new procedures and learning new skills. Personnel were sent to the world headquarters to learn how to erect, operate, and maintain large web offset presses. Some were taught how to do color separation work with a laser scanner. Additional personnel were trained in the use and the maintenance of computer equipment. Thus, production problems arising anywhere in the world could be quickly resolved so that the work would continue to move ahead.
The Governing Body realized that if Jehovah’s Witnesses worldwide could study the same material in their meetings week by week and distribute the same literature in the field ministry, this would have a powerful unifying effect. In the past, literature published in English was not usually available in other languages until at least four months later; for many languages it was a year, or often years, later. But now a change was possible. Having fully compatible equipment in the printing branches was an important factor in being able to publish literature simultaneously in a variety of languages. By 1984, simultaneous publication of The Watchtower was achieved in 20 languages. In 1989, when the powerful message contained in the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand! was distributed to the public just a few months after its release, that book was available in 25 languages. By 1992, simultaneous publication of The Watchtower had broadened out to include 66 languages, those being used by a large proportion of the world’s population.
Since the MEPS project was undertaken in 1979, the computer industry has made extraordinary advances. Powerful personal computers with great versatility are now available at a fraction of the cost of the earlier equipment. To keep pace with the needs of its publishing work, the Watch Tower Society decided to make use of these personal computers, along with its own software. This greatly speeded up the production process. It also made it possible to provide the benefits of the publishing programs to more of the Society’s branches, and the number of branches using these quickly rose to 83. By 1992 the Watch Tower Society had, worldwide, over 3,800 terminals in which it was using its own computer programs. Not all the branches that are thus equipped do printing, but any branch that has a small computer and the Society’s software, along with a small laser printer, has the capability for prepress work on tracts, magazines, books, and any other printing that needs to be done.
Increased Computer Support for Translators
Could computerization also be used to give greater support to those doing the work of translation? Translators of Watch Tower publications now do their work, in most cases, at computer terminals. Many of these are at the Society’s branch offices. Others, who may translate at home and who have done their work for many years on typewriters or even by hand, have been helped to learn how to enter their translation at computer workstations or on laptop computers (ones that are conveniently small) purchased by the Society. Adjustments in the translation can easily be made right there on the computer screen. If the translating is done somewhere other than in the office of a branch where the actual printing will be done, all that is needed is to transfer the text to a thin, flexible disk and send it to the printing branch for processing.
During 1989-90, as rapid changes took place in the governments in many lands, international communication became easier. Quickly, Jehovah’s Witnesses convened a seminar of their translators from Eastern Europe. This was designed to help them improve the quality of their work, to enable them to benefit from available computer equipment, and to make possible simultaneous publication of The Watchtower in their languages. Additionally, translators in Southeast Asia were given similar help.
But could the computer be used to speed up the work of translation or improve its quality? Yes. By 1989, powerful computer systems were being harnessed by Jehovah’s Witnesses to assist in Bible translation. After extensive preliminary work, electronic files were provided that would enable a translator quickly to call up on the computer screen a visual display of any given original-language word along with a record of all the ways it had, in accord with the context, been rendered into English in the New World Translation. He could also select a key English word and call up all the original-language words from which this (and possibly words of similar meaning) had been drawn. This would often reveal that a group of words were being used in English to convey the idea embodied in a single original-language term. It would quickly provide the translator with an in-depth view of what he was translating. It would help him to capture the distinctive sense of the basic original-language expression as well as the exact meaning required by the context and thus to express it accurately in his own language.
Using these computer files, veteran translators would examine all the occurrences of any given word in the Bible and assign local-language equivalents for each of these occurrences according to what was required by context. This would assure a high degree of consistency. The work of each translator would be reviewed by others working on the team so that the translation would benefit from the research and experience of all of them. After this was done, the computer could be used to display a given passage of Scripture, showing every word in the English text, a key to what appeared in the original language, and the local-language equivalent that had been selected. This would not complete the work. The translator still needed to smooth out the sentence structure and make it read well in his own language. But while doing this, it would be vital to have a clear grasp of the meaning of the scripture. To help him, he was given instantaneous computer access to published Watch Tower commentary on the Bible verse or any expression in it.
Research time could thus be held down, and a high degree of consistency could be achieved. With further development of this potential, it is hoped that more valuable publications can be made available quickly even in languages with limited staffs of translators. Use of this tool to provide literature in support of the proclamation of the Kingdom message has opened up a tremendous publishing field.
Thus, like their early Christian counterparts, Jehovah’s Witnesses in modern times employ the latest means to spread God’s Word. In order to reach as many people as possible with the good news, they have not been afraid to take on new challenges in the field of publishing.
In 1896 the name of the corporation was officially changed to Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
This was a firm owned by Charles Taze Russell. In 1898 he transferred assets of the Tower Publishing Company by donation to the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society.
This failure to get coal was not merely due to wartime shortage. Hugo Riemer, who was then a member of the headquarters staff, later wrote that it was principally because hatred for the Bible Students was so rampant in New York at that time.
Letterpress printing is done from a raised surface on which appears a mirror image of what will be on the printed page. This raised surface is inked and pressed against paper. Offset printing is done by making an inked impression from a plate onto a rubber-blanketed cylinder and then transferring that impression to the paper.
From 1959 to 1971, the Society had used a sheetfed offset press at its Brooklyn plant to produce four-color calendars featuring themes related to the preaching of the good news.
[Blurb on page 578]
“Let’s make coal the test”
[Blurb on page 595]
Equipping the entire global network of Watch Tower factories for offset printing
[Blurb on page 596]
“We have nothing but praise for . . . the Watchtower people”
[Box/Pictures on page 581]
At first it was all done by hand, one letter at a time
From 1920 until the 1980’s, Linotype machines were used
In some places the typesetting was done with Monotype equipment
Now a computerized phototypesetting process is used
[Box/Pictures on page 582]
From the 1920’s to the 1980’s, lead plates were made for letterpress printing
1. Lines of type for the pages of printed material were locked into metal frames called chases
2. Under pressure, an impression of the type was made on material that could be used as a mold
3. Hot lead was poured against the mat (or mold) to make curved metal printing plates
4. Unwanted metal was routed from the face of the plate
5. The plates were nickeled for durability
Later, negatives of phototypeset pages were positioned, and pictures were stripped in. Groups of pages were photographically transferred to flexible offset printing plates
[Box/Picture on page 585]
‘Evidence of Jehovah’s Spirit’
“The successful printing of books and Bibles on rotary presses by persons of little or no previous experience [and at a time when others were not yet doing it] is evidence of Jehovah’s oversight and the direction of his spirit,” said Charles Fekel. Brother Fekel knew well what was involved, for he had shared in the development of the printing operations at the Society’s headquarters for over half a century. In his later years, he served as a member of the Governing Body.
[Box/Picture on page 586]
Relying on Almighty God
An experience related by Hugo Riemer, former purchasing agent for the Watch Tower Society, reflects the way the Watch Tower Society carries out its business.
During World War II, printing paper was rationed in the United States. Appeal for supplies had to be made to a government-appointed committee. On one occasion one of the prominent Bible societies had lawyers, big-business men, preachers, and others there to represent them before the committee. They were granted far less than they wanted. After their request had been heard, the committee called for the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society. When Hugo Riemer and Max Larson stepped forward, the chairman asked: “Just the two of you?” The reply: “Yes. We hope that Almighty God is with us too.” They were granted all the supplies they needed.
[Box/Pictures on page 587]
Presses of many varieties have been used by the Watch Tower Society in its printing operations
For many years flatbed presses of many descriptions were used (Germany)
Job presses have been used to print not only forms and handbills but also magazines (U.S.A.)
In its various printeries, 58 of these MAN rotary letterpresses from Germany were used (Canada)
Now, high-speed full-color web offset presses manufactured in various lands are used in the Society’s principal printeries
[Pictures on page 588, 589]
Some of the early bookbinding in Watch Tower factories was done by hand (Switzerland)
Large-scale production in the United States required many separate operations
1. Gathering signatures
2. Sewing them together
3. Pasting on endsheets
5. Embossing the covers
6. Putting covers on the books
7. Pressing the books until the paste set
Now, instead of sewing, burst binding is often used, and high-speed machines may each turn out 20,000 or more books per day
[Box/Pictures on page 594]
To Promote Knowledge of God’s Kingdom
The Watch Tower Society has at various times produced literature in more than 290 different languages. As of 1992 they were publishing literature in some 210 languages. All of this was done in order to help people to know about God’s Kingdom and what it means for them. Among their Bible study aids most widely distributed to date are the following:
“The Truth That Leads to Eternal Life” (1968): 107,553,888 copies, in 117 languages
“You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth” (1982): 62,428,231 copies, in 115 languages
“Enjoy Life on Earth Forever!” (1982): 76,203,646 copies, in 200 languages
Figures given above are as of 1992.
[Box/Pictures on page 598]
In addition to using the printed page in its evangelizing work, since 1978 the Watch Tower Society has produced audiocassettes—upwards of 65 million copies on its own equipment in the United States and Germany.
The entire “New World Translation” is on audiocassettes in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. As of 1992 varying amounts of this Bible translation were also available on audiocassettes in eight other languages.
As an aid in teaching young children, tape recordings have been made of “My Book of Bible Stories” and “Listening to the Great Teacher,” publications especially designed for young ones.
In addition, in some lands audiotapes are produced for use in radio broadcasts.
Recordings are produced by an orchestra made up entirely of Witnesses. These tapes are used as accompaniment for singing at conventions of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Beautiful orchestral arrangements of this music are also available for home enjoyment.
Recorded dramas (both modern-day and Bible accounts) are used at conventions, where Witness actors help the audience to visualize events. Some of these are later used for instructive and enjoyable family entertainment.
Both the “Watchtower” and “Awake!” magazines are available on audiocassettes in English and Finnish. Also, “The Watchtower” is available in French, German, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. Originally intended for people who had poor eyesight, these tapes are appreciated by many thousands of others.
J. E. Barr in recording studio
[Box/Pictures on page 600, 601]
Use of Videocassettes in Kingdom Proclamation
In 1990 the Watch Tower Society entered a new field by releasing its first videocassette designed for public distribution.
It was estimated in that year that upwards of 200,000,000 households around the globe had VCR’s (videocassette recorders) of various sorts. Even in lands where there were no television stations, VCR’s were in use. Thus, use of videocassettes as a means of instruction offered a fresh way to reach a widespread audience.
As early as 1985, work had begun on a video presentation designed to show those who visit its facilities some of the activity at the Society’s world headquarters. In time, video presentations also proved to be time-savers in the orientation of new Bethel family members. Could this means of instruction be used in other ways to assist in the global work of disciple making? Some of the brothers believed that it could.
As a result, in October 1990, the videocassette “Jehovah’s Witnesses—The Organization Behind the Name” was released. The response was outstanding. A flood of requests for more of such programs was received. To fill the need, a new department called Video Services was established.
Witnesses who were experts in the field gladly offered their help. Equipment was obtained. Studios were set up. A camera crew began to travel to various lands to film people and objects that could be used in video presentations designed to build faith. The international all-Witness orchestra that had repeatedly helped with special projects provided music that would enhance video presentations.
Plans were implemented to reach more language groups. By mid-1992, the video “Jehovah’s Witnesses—The Organization Behind the Name” was being sent out in over a dozen languages. It had been recorded in 25 languages, including some for Eastern Europe. In addition, arrangements were under way to record it in Mandarin as well as Cantonese for the Chinese. The Society had also acquired the rights to reproduction and distribution of “Purple Triangles,” a video about the integrity of a Witness family in Germany during the Nazi era. Within a two-year period, well over a million videocassettes had been produced for use by Jehovah’s Witnesses in their ministry.
Special attention was given to the needs of the deaf. An edition of “Jehovah’s Witnesses—The Organization Behind the Name” was produced in American Sign Language. And studies were undertaken with a view to providing videos that would be suitable for deaf people in other lands.
While this was being done, work was under way to produce a series that would help to build faith in the book that is the very foundation of Christian faith, the Bible. By September 1992, the first part of that program, “The Bible—Accurate History, Reliable Prophecy,” was complete in English, and editions in other languages were being prepared.
Videocassettes are by no means taking the place of the printed page or personal witnessing. The Society’s publications continue to fill a vital role in spreading the good news. The house-to-house work of Jehovah’s Witnesses remains a solidly based Scriptural feature of their ministry. However, videocassettes now supplement these as valuable tools for cultivating faith in Jehovah’s precious promises and stimulating appreciation for what he is having done on the earth in our day.
1. After basic content is determined, videotaping proceeds as the script is being developed
2. Pictures are selected and their sequence is determined during off-line editing
3. Orchestral music that has been specially composed is recorded to enhance the presentation
4. Digital music and sound effects are merged with narration and pictures
5. Audio and visual features are given final editing
[Pictures on page 576]
Actual printing of these early publications was done by commercial firms
[Picture on page 577]
C. A. Wise made a test to see whether the Bible Students should reestablish headquarters in Brooklyn
[Pictures on page 579]
The Society’s first rotary press was used to print 4,000,000 copies of the hard-hitting “Golden Age” No. 27
[Picture on page 580]
R. J. Martin (right), first overseer of the Society’s Brooklyn factory, conferring with Brother Rutherford
[Picture on page 583]
One of the Society’s first printeries in Europe (Bern, Switzerland)
[Pictures on page 584]
In Magdeburg, Germany, the Society set up a printery during the 1920’s
[Picture on page 590, 591]
Elandsfontein, South Africa (1972)
[Picture on page 590]
Numazu, Japan (1972)
[Picture on page 590]
Strathfield, Australia (1972)
[Picture on page 590]
São Paulo, Brazil (1973)
[Picture on page 591]
Lagos, Nigeria (1974)
[Picture on page 591]
Wiesbaden, Germany (1975)
[Picture on page 591]
Toronto, Canada (1975)
[Picture on page 597]
Intensive font digitizing has been done by the Witnesses to meet their need for Bible literature in many languages (Brooklyn, N.Y.)
[Picture on page 599]
Color computer workstations enable art designers to position, crop, and refine pictures electronically
[Picture on page 602]
Jehovah’s Witnesses use computer systems to speed up and refine the work of Bible translation (Korea)