Log College Press
Technology is at the same time destructive and creative, disruptive and connective. It erases jobs from existence (has anyone seen an ice cutter or an elevator operator recently?), and creates whole new industries and vocations (pause to recollect that no one but Apple employees had likely even heard of the iPhone in 2006). The obituary of the book has been written several times over the past twenty years, thanks to the Internet and e-readers, yet ironically the technologies that drive the Internet have made the ability to self-publish and market a book accessible to just about anyone. Amazon continues to do prolifically what it started doing in 1994 - selling physical books. Of course, because Amazon sells so many books, independent bookstores have declined precipitously over the past twenty years. For every "pro" of technology, someone is certainly able to find a "con."
The digitization of old books is a technological breakthrough that has undoubtedly caused some disruption. But the emergence of Google Books, Archive.org, or a simple scanner in your home office has created an enormous amount of benefit to anyone anywhere with an internet connection faster than dial-up. Entire libraries have scanned their public domain books into PDF format, thus preserving in digital form a wealth of information, saving researchers untold number of travel hours and dollars, and bringing the past to the screens of bibliophiles in a matter of seconds.
Readers of this blog do not need to be convinced of the value of old books. C. S. Lewis put it adroitly in his introduction to Athanasius' On the Incarnation, "Every age has its own outlook. It is specially good at seeing certain truths and specially liable to make certain mistakes. We all, therefore, need the books that will correct the characteristic mistakes of our own period. And that means the old books...The only palliative [to ignoring our cultural and chronological blind spots] is to keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds, and this can be done only by reading old books. Not, of course, that there is any magic about the past. People were no cleverer then than they are now; they made as many mistakes as we. But not the same mistakes. They will not flatter us in the errors we are already committing; and their own errors, being now open and palpable, will not endanger us. Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction." I believe Lewis is insightfully correct. We must not ignore the past. Rather we should root ourselves in the past, so that we might bear fruit into the future. With this guiding motivation, it is my privilege and joy to offer Log College Press to the church and the academy.
Log College Press, inspired by the Post-Reformation Digital Library (a database of digital books from the 15th-18th centuries), focuses on the 18th and 19th century American Presbyterians. Believing that the past is not dead, primary sources are not inaccessible, and American Presbyterians are not irrelevant, Log College Press seeks to collect and reprint the writings of and about our fathers in the faith in the various Presbyterian traditions in these United States.
As students of church history will recognize, Log College Press is named for that early American "seminary" founded in Pennsylvania around 1726, William Tennent's Log College. An indirect forerunner to Princeton Theological Seminary, and by extension Westminster Theological Seminary, the history of the Log College is reflective of the diversity of Presbyterianism in America, and demonstrates (ironically) the importance our tradition has placed on an educated ministry and an educated church. Presbyterian pastors and teachers in the 18th and 19th centuries not only preached to God's people from pulpits and taught God's people in classrooms, they also wrote books, pamphlets, newspaper and journal articles, and letters. Many of these writings have been reprinted in the modern era, thanks to publishers like Banner of Truth and Sprinkle Publications, but more have been forgotten or are buried away in libraries. Through digital archiving, Log College Press is able to bring these hidden gems together in one organized site.
One of our foremost goals is to collect as much of the extant digital literature from this period as possible. So far the Log College Press website offers for free download over 1750 works by over 350 authors, and this number increases every week (obviously these writings are of varying quality, but for the sake of historical completeness we are aiming for a comprehensive collection). Many of these books have been categorized by topic for those interested in a particular area of study. The free PDF library also contains a page with a growing number of theses and dissertations on American Presbyterian history - so contact us if you have a thesis or dissertation we could put on the site.
Another of our goals is to reprint selected primary and secondary sources so that God's people today might be encouraged and instructed by the writings of these pastors and theologians. Thus far Log College Press has published three booklets (Thomas Dwight Witherspoon's The Five Points of Presbyterianism: The Distinctives of Presbyterian Church Government, Cornelius Washington Grafton's A Forty-Three Year Pastorate in a Country Church, and William Swan Plumer's Christ All in All: The Right Temper for a Theologian), and one book (Francis James Grimke's Meditations on Preaching).
In addition to those titles we have already been able to republish, we are set to publish Archibald Alexander's "Letters to the Aged" under the title Aging in Grace: Letters to Those in the Autumn of Life. Other projects down the road, Lord willing, include John Holt Rice on the duties of the minister, John Lafayette Girardeau's catechism, Samuel Miller on suicide, William Swan Plumer on the impeccability of Jesus, the biography of John Gloucester, Samuel Miller on Presbyterianism, Archibald Alexander's counsel of the aged to the young and other worthwhile works. In addition to the publications mentioned above, the Log College Press online bookstore is curating an extensive inventory of secondary sources on Presbyterian history.
To learn more about what Log College Press has to offer, follow our near-daily blog posts, in which the authors on our site and their works are highlighted. Ecclesiastes 12:12 reminds us, "[T]he writing of many books is endless..." That saying is true. Log College Press is admittedly adding to the endless flow of books, but we do so in hopes that just as the recovery of 16th and 17th century Puritanism in the 20th century has enriched the church, so the discovery of 18th and 19th century American Presbyterianism in the 21st century might lead the body of Christ around the world to a greater fruitfulness both now and for years to come.