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University Archives

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A Huge, Attractive, and Rare Membership Certificate For Missionaries to China With an Elaborate Pictorial Engraving, Very Unique

Partly-printed Document Signed, "Saml: Miller," as President of the Board of Foreign Missions of the Presbyterian Church, 1 page, 20.5" x 16", Ca. 1840, an engrossed membership certificate featuring a superb illustration at center, 13.25" x 8", and titled in Chinese and English at top: "This is the word of the Lord, not by might nor by power, but by my Spring, saith the Lord of hosts". Two minor expertly repaired tears do not affect text or engraving, typical folds, else very good.

The engraving, signed "Miss M.K.L." in print below the plate, is dominated by a large view of two populated shores, with a sailing ship at center beneath the words: "GO YE INTO ALL THE WORLD AND PREACH THE GOSPEL." At left, an American crowd of well-wishers gather on the dock to bid farewell to departing missionaries with a church and prominent buildings. Just to the left, printed vertically, are the words: "How shall thy believe in him of whom they have not heard, and how shall they hear without a preacher, and how shall they preach except they be sent." On the other shore a smaller crowd mingles before several what appear to be several temples exhibiting various Asian architectural styles. Beneath the main plate is an image of a printing press and a globe. To the right, again printed vertically, are the words: "The people which sat in darkness saw great light and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death, light is sprung up."

Preacher and historian Samuel Miller (1769-1850) was a prolific writer and major figure in the Presbyterian Church. In 1835, while teaching at the Princeton Theological Seminary, he published an influential sermon, "The Earth Filled With the Glory of the Lord," and was instrumental in founding the Board of Foreign Missions in 1837. The Board of Foreign Missions sent its first representatives to China in 1843 and were soon based in Guangzhou, Hainan, Macau, Shanghai, spreading into other parts of the country These Presbyterian missionaries ran hospitals, as well as a type foundry producing Chinese type in seven sizes.

Rare. While we have seen membership certificates for the Board of Foreign Missions, we have never encountered one this elaborate or this early. 

This item comes with a Certificate from John Reznikoff, a premier authenticator for both major 3rd party authentication services, PSA and JSA (James Spence Authentications), as well as numerous auction houses.

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