Tuesday, November 24, 2015

An Introduction to What Never Was

This material is a slight abridgment of material that originally appeared on Blog 2. It was originally written nearly 25 years ago, as the forward to a bibliography of the publications of the Watchtower Society. I amassed a wealth of material, but the project never saw the light of the day. I tend to be a good starter, but not a good finisher. However, all the research was freely passed onto others who enquired, so it didn’t get wasted. More recent compilers like Stan Milosevic in Canada have produced useful works like WATCHTOWER PUBLICATIONS VALUATIONS GUIDE. I wouldn’t necessarily concur with all the valuations, but apart from not listing all the Bible Student Monthly tracts (under their three mastheads) it is quite comprehensive.

It was hidden away on my hard drive (through various computers) for decades, and only rediscovered by accident in a long overdue “clear out” of dead files. I would normally have consigned it to oblivion again, but noted that there are some snippets of history in it - about strange booklets, Angels and Women, Rutherford’s Ecclesiastical Heavens booklet, amongst others, and also some comments on attitudes of the time (largely superseded in modern times I am pleased to note). So, as filler, I am letting it see the surprising light of day here. But please note that it was written just after the Society’s 1990 index was produced, but before the Proclaimers book was released in 1993, so is a time capsule of the early 1990s.

Introduction to “Watch Tower Publications - A Celebration”

One of the problems with introductions is that very few people ever bother to read them, preferring to skip straight into the body of the work, in this case what is to date the most comprehensive bibliography of the publications of the Watchtower Society.

To understand what follows, and why certain things are included (or excluded) and the basic purpose of this volume a few minutes reading what follows will not be wasted.

The basis for the work

The basic starting point for this work is the Society's own bibliographies - the most detailed of which to date was recently published in the Publications Index 1985-90. There are a few occasions where this work will change categories slightly - e.g. the difference between a booklet or a brochure - but the Society's listing is closely followed otherwise.

However, the current work is designed to ADD a lot of detail not available before.

Many tracts for example are not listed at all in the Society's bibliography, or if they are, just the title of the series, e.g., Bible Students Monthly.  Yet that was a series of over 100 different four page tracts.  This work will list them all.  Then when is a tract not a tract but just a handbill or leaflet?  Both are used in mass-distribution witnessing work.  This work will include many other items that SEEM to qualify as tracts, and this of course will be a list to which many readers could easily add.

This work proposes to catalogue some of the ephemera, postcards, public talk handbills and outlines, forms, etc.  There is a special section on BEFORE THE WATCHTOWER, covering some pre-1879 materials that are of interest to many collectors.  There is a section on the Society's films, with a special section on the PHOTO DRAMA OF CREATION listing full details of the slides, moving pictures and recordings.  Slides presentations and videos are also catalogued in the audio-visual section

Why collect?

In the past, some have tended to frown on collectors.  Statements like 'You don't want to bother with that" or 'You need to keep up-to-date" have suggested that real collectors have somehow stayed in a time-warp, surrounded by yellowed Golden Age magazines, rarely sharing in current activities, and more likely to have studied their Old Theology Quarterly file than modern literature.  It must be stressed of course that browsing through history is generally NOT what most would term “personal study”, but is a leisure activity.  But if a collector turns off the TV and rearranges the dust on old materials with care, then that is their leisure activity, and who should criticize?

Criticisms of collecting have largely disappeared as the Society has more and more encouraged witnesses to collect in some shape or form old material.  They did this when they republished the Watchtower volumes back to 1951, and then the CD-ROM material back to 1950.  The Society's own published indexes will take a researcher back to 1930 - there has to be an assumption that, while the more recent references will be more used, once in a while someone really IS going back to the 1930s.  Then a book like REVELATION CLIMAX has over 40 pre-1930 references. All these factors make collecting USEFUL, as well as enjoyable for those who are natural collectors!

And collecting is not just the books and magazines.

To get an insight into the flavor of the past, the EPHEMERA of an era has a vital role - throwaway material has a tremendous value decades on in recreating what it was REALLY like at the time.

The Society has naturally not kept all its ephemera - the very nature of ephemera is that it is not valued as permanent at the time.  Although the Society is now far more conscious of preserving history, even in recent times it has had to rely heavily on private collectors to supply the materials.  The value of private collections goes back a long way.  When the reprint volumes were first proposed, the troubles of 1918 had decimated their library.  Those at headquarters did not even have a complete file of Watchtower magazines and had to rely on private collectors to lend the missing issues. Private collectors of course did so and so the project could be realized.  Until recently there were four issues of Old Theology Quarterly for which the Society did not know the titles.  Again private collectors helped fill the gaps and supplied photocopies.

So if you are a collector you will need no encouragement to 'save it' - who knows, one day it may prove useful.  If of course you are not a collector, then you will not be reading this anyway.

Previous attempts

There have been several previous attempts to produce bibliographies of the Society's materials. But earlier efforts, including the Society's own, starting with the 1930-60 Index, have contained inaccuracies, and in some cases it appears that writers have 'invented' publications, or at least passed on the errors of others.

A classic example is one bibliography that lists a number of booklets that no-one has ever been able to find. The problem can be traced back to the bibliography published by H H Stroup in his work JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES published first in 1945, as an early attempt as a sociological study.  Stroup quoted extensively from the then more current works of J F Rutherford, but unfortunately used the titles of the individual treatise rather than the titles of the booklets.  To explain, most Rutherford booklets contained a series of titles on different subjects, the first of which became the cover title for the whole booklet. But when Stroup quoted from a Rutherford treatise, he used the title at the top of the page as if it were the title of the whole publication - which generally, it wasn’t.

Here are some Stroup examples of this.

Stroup title in his bibliography
Jehovah's Organization (1932)
Hypocrisy (1932)
Prophets Foretell Redemption (1932)
Can American Government Endure (1933)
JWs - Why Persecuted (1933)
America's End (1934)
Justifying War (1934)
Religions (1934)
Marriage (1936)
Why Serve Jehovah (1936 wrong date)
Actually a chapter within booklet:
The Final War
Cause of Death
Good News
The Crisis
The Crisis
Beyond the Grave
Beyond the Grave
Home and Happiness
Dividing the People (pub 1933)

These mysterious missing booklets sent many collectors off on a wild goose chase for booklets that don’t exist as such - and some later “compilers” subsequently repeated Stroup’s error.  (It also illustrates the fact that many collectors don't actually read their collections - if they had done so, the problem would have quickly been solved).

The Society's own bibliography first appeared in 1960 in their 1930-1960 index.  It was a start.  There were many omissions, and some anomalies such as the date 1873 for OBJECT AND MANNER OF OUR LORD'S RETURN.  But as noted above, the current index is still limited.  For example, what are all the titles for Peoples Pulpit, Everybody’s Paper and Bible Students Monthly? 

There are other problems to address as well.  What is an official publication and what isn't? Theoretically, the obvious answer is when it has the name Watchtower, or IBSA, or People’s Pulpit on the flyleaf.  But it is not that simple. A number of Bible Students and witnesses have published their own material, which has been actively circulated by the Society or at least been given tacit approval at the time.  There have also been occasions where Society material has been published under a different imprint.  So we get publications like ANGELOPHONE HYMNS from 1916.  This is so obviously a Society publication from references in the Watchtowers of the times, but was published from a different address.  Then what about ANGELS AND WOMEN?  This is a republication of a Victorian novel that the Society endorsed in 1924, but published by the A.B. ABAC Company.  More crucially, what about GREAT BATTLE IN ECCLESIASTICAL HEAVENS? This famous booklet by J F Rutherford defending C T Russell is NOT listed as a Watchtower publication in the latest index because the American edition was published privately by J F Rutherford - although still available on the official society's cost list. (Just to add to the confusion however, the British edition WAS published by the Society).  In this  latter instance we have included it as a Society publication, whereas Rutherford's earlier work PLAN OF SALVATION AS SEEN FROM A LAWYERS VIEWPOINT is not included as official.  More recent cases in point are works by Marley Cole and A H MacMillan.  In these cases we have made a personal decision whether to include them or not.  On most occasions we have followed the Society's decision and omitted them from the main listing, but have included them in a special section called FRINGE ITEMS. Such a list has to be the personal choice of this compiler, so obviously will appear incomplete to some.

Finally, the title of this work is to stress the expression A CELEBRATION.  It is the firm belief of this compiler that ALL the publications of the Society have done a work in their time and all tell part of the story.  For those who wish to collect the story it is hoped this descriptive bibliography and its illustrations will be helpful.


Donald Jacobs said...

That's so interesting. A shame it never saw the light of day. Can I ask who is the author of this, not Bruce Schulz, but Jerome? Forgive my ignorance. I wonder whether you'd include the booklets of John Edgar as related material. I believe it was one of Edgar's booklets that got Fred Franz interested. As you say sometimes the line is not so clear. German publications produced for schools and museums are another example, although I don't know if you go into foreign language at all. Having said that, there's "The Spirit and the Sword" an extremely rare semi-official publication on JWs in Nazi Germany in English. And Kreuzzug gegen das Christentum too surely deserves a mention.

roberto said...

For the early years, in my "Personal Watchtower Library" I am trying to include all the authors and publications quoted in the book "A Separate Identity".

jerome said...

Responding to Donald - the article and "Introduction to What Never Was" was written by myself - alias Jerome, who has contributed to this blog for a number of years. Had the project been completed I would certainly have included the Edgar brothers' booklet, especially since, as you say, John Edgar's "Where Are the Dead" (not to be confused with the Society's couple of booklets of the same name) was responsible for interesting Fred Franz in this message. I would also have included the foreign language versions of "Crusade Against Christianity" - alas, never issued in English.

Probably the best bibliography you can currently obtain is the one I mentioned by Stan Milosovic. Although, he doesn't include the Edgar booklets, although he DOES include their pyramid books. Perhaps the biggest omission is the catalog of all the Bible Students' Monthly (under that heading and also People's Pulpit and Everybody's Paper).

I would be very interested to learn more about "The Spirit and the Sword" that you mention.

jerome said...

Postscript to Donald Jacobs

If this is going to veer off the specific purpose of this blog, I can always be contacted back-channel if you wish at:


Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said...

There are some 19th and early 20th century tracts not listed in the Index bibliography. Some only differ in format. Some are local but WT sponsored.