The first book printed in what is now West Virginia, Christian Panoply; Containing an Apology for the Bible in a Series of Letters Addressed to Thomas Paine, was written by Richard Watson, D.D., Lord Bishop of Llandaff, England, in 1796. The book was published first in England and then republished many times there and in America. Issued in 1797 in Shepherdstown, by publishers P. Rootes and C. Blagrove, the 332-page calfskin-bound volume also contained An Apology for Christianity (1776), written in response to Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.
Rootes and Blagrove also published for a short time the Impartial Examiner, the second newspaper to be published in present West Virginia. Watson (1737–1816) was educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, taught chemistry there, became chairperson of the divinity department, and was named Bishop of Llandaff in 1782. Watson was known for his strong views as a supporter of the American Revolution, a defender of religious tolerance, and an advocate of fairer distribution of church revenues. His Christian Panoply was a rebuttal of Thomas Paine’s An Age of Reason, which expounded antibiblical views.
Written by Debra K. Sullivan
Ambler, Charles H. & Festus P. Summers. West Virginia: The Mountain State. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1958.
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