Publishing The Watchtower
When first produced, in July 1879, it was called Zion’s Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence. This magazine, which was a champion of the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ, was published to serve spiritual food to the household of faith. On January 1, 1909, the title was changed to The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence, in order to focus attention more clearly on the objective of the magazine. As of January 1, 1939, putting increased emphasis on the fact that Christ was already ruling from heaven as King, the title was altered to read The Watchtower and Herald of Christ’s Kingdom. Then on March 1, 1939, by changing the title to The Watchtower Announcing Jehovah’s Kingdom, attention was directed more prominently to Jehovah as the Universal Sovereign, the one who gave ruling authority to his Son.
When first published, the Watch Tower was an eight-page paper, produced once a month. The size was increased to 16 pages in 1891, and it became a semimonthly magazine in 1892. A 32-page format was adopted for many languages in 1950.
Translation of the Watch Tower into other languages began slowly. A single sample issue was published in Swedish in 1883 for use as a tract. From 1886 to 1889, a small-sized edition of the magazine was printed in German. But it was not until 1897 that the Watch Tower appeared again in German and continued to be published on a consistent basis. By 1916 it was being printed in seven languages—Dano-Norwegian, English, Finnish, French, German, Polish, and Swedish. When the preaching of the good news took on greater momentum in 1922, the number of languages in which the magazine was published was increased to 16. As of 1993, however, it was being regularly produced in 112 languages—those used by a large proportion of earth’s population. This included not only languages such as English, Spanish, and Japanese, in which millions of copies per issue were printed, but also Palauan, Tuvaluan, and others in which only a few hundred were being distributed.
For many years The Watchtower was viewed as a magazine largely for the “little flock” of consecrated Christians. Its circulation was somewhat limited; by 1916 only 45,000 copies were being printed. But beginning in 1935, repeated emphasis was placed on encouraging “the Jonadabs,” or “great crowd,” to obtain and read The Watchtower regularly. In 1939, when the cover of the magazine began to highlight the Kingdom, subscriptions for The Watchtower were offered to the public during a four-month international subscription campaign. As a result, the subscription list rose to 120,000. The following year The Watchtower was being regularly offered to people on the streets. Circulation increased rapidly. By early 1993 the printing per issue in all languages was 16,400,000.