The Saviour's parting command to His disciples, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations," rang with insistent appeal in the ears of Mrs. Ellen G. White, His chosen messenger for these last days. As the church was developing its foreign-language work in America and in Europe, the most prominent of her books, such as "The Great Controversy," and "The Life of Christ," were published in a number of the leading foreign tongues to help in fulfilling the command, "Teach all nations."
This phase of the work was not forgotten when Mrs. White was laying the plans for the future of her writings and preparing the instruction for those who should carry forward the trust after her decease. We find that to the board of trustees, appointed by her in her last will, were entrusted the "right, title, and interest in the copyrights" of her books "in all languages" [italics mine], with definite instruction and provision "for the securing and printing of new translations thereof."
In connection with this charge to the trustees, we refer also to instruction written in 1907 regarding the publication of the Ellen G. White books in foreign languages. Speaking of her son, Elder W. C. White, who for many years prior to her death assisted in her bookwork, and who since the death of his mother has devoted his entire time to the work of the Estate, she says:
"I have instructed him to labor untiringly to secure the publication of my writings in the English language first, and afterward to secure their translation and publication in many other languages."—"The Writing and Sending Out of the Testimonies for the Church," p. 14.
The two hundred and more volumes representing the various foreign editions of the principal Ellen G. White books issued in over fifty leading tongues, bear witness not only to the burning desire of Mrs. White to provide her writings in many languages, but also to the untiring efforts of the trustees in forwarding this phase of their work. Their part of this task includes not only the arrangement for, and promotion of, the Ellen G. White books in foreign languages, but also the preparation of manuscripts for translation.
Selections and Abridgments
Two years before Mrs. White's death, she and those assisting her in her bookwork, together with representative workers from several distant fields, gave careful study to the needs of many foreign lands. They clearly saw that if the people of these countries were to have the benefit of the instruction in her larger hooks, it would have to be in the form of selections or abridgments. In talking with her associates about this, she several times expressed her approval of this work. She maintained that it was better for ten thousand people to have a portion of what she had written than for one thousand to have it all.
In many of the foreign lands to which the message is being carried, the people are poor, the cost of translation and publication is large, and there can be at best only a limited circulation of the books thus made available. In addition to this, we must consider that in most of the languages, a book will expand from ten to twenty-five per cent in size when translated from the English. These difficulties would rule out from many a needy foreign field the larger Ellen G. White books, were it not for the plan of selecting portions or making abridgments.
In the beginning of this work, initiated during the last two years of her life, Mrs. White took a great deal of satisfaction. The endeavor received her unqualified approval, and the workers were cheered on by her assurance that the Lord had several times presented to her the necessity of making selections from her writings for publication in many foreign lands. Most of the projects which were begun before her decease have been pushed forward to completion, and new tasks in this line have been undertaken by the trustees.
As an illustration of this work, the book "The Great Controversy," is typical of others_ In the English, this book contains 690 pages, and the full book is published in such leading languages as German, French, Spanish, Danish, Swedish, and Japanese. The trustees, with the help of representatives from foreign lands, have developed an abridgment containing 419 pages, or a reduction of about two fifths. This abridgment has been published in such European and Asiatic languages as the Russian, Bulgarian, Icelandic, Tagalog, Panayan, and others.
"The Desire of Ages" has likewise been reduced from 835 large pages to 690 standard size pages, in an effort to bring it within a scope that would make its publication possible in many languages. In this abridgment, it appears in German, in English for the British people, and will soon be published in French.
It is no small task to select for foreign publication only sixty or sixty-five percent of the subject matter of such books as "The Great Controversy" and "The Desire of Ages," and at the same time maintain the principal lines of consecutive thought and preserve the most precious and practical spiritual lessons. In making these selections, chapters either in their entirety or in part are used. Rarely are paragraphs broken into. The greatest care is exercised in the performance of the work, to make sure that no modification or change is made in the thoughts or teachings of Mrs. White. Diligent, prayerful study is given to this work,—first, by experienced workers under the direction of the trustees, and later, by a larger group.
Several others of the larger books have been similarly abridged for foreign use, but those mentioned serve to illustrate this line of work. The trustees have been glad to join the workers of other fields in an effort to make available to their peoples at least portions of the Ellen G. White writings.
In some instances, in an effort to provide the church members in foreign lands with the "Testimonies," selections have been made from the nine volumes. The amount of matter selected has been determined by the conditions existing in the field calling for the selections. For our Spanish and Portuguese believers, selections from the "Testimonies" and other E. G. White writings are being published in a series of five volumes of about three hundred pages each. In many of the European countries, selections from the "Testimonies" are available in one or two volumes. While the brethren in each of these foreign lands would eagerly welcome all of the nine volumes in their respective languages, yet they are very happy to have a portion of what is available in English, and they report that these volumes of selections from the "Testimonies" greatly help in building up and stabilizing the church.
Another specific instance of a task of selection is of interest. During 1933, a manuscript was prepared which will supply India with a brief selection of the E. G. White writings for translation into twelve vernaculars. Recause of the limited church membership in each of the language areas, the book must needs be very small. About one hundred pages of biographical and introductory matter were recommended for the first part, and then from the nine volumes of the "Testimonies" and a few other books, selections were added, making a second part of one hundred pages of most vital instruction for the church members.
This important phase of the work of the Estate is being carried forward continuously, and the appearance of one of the E. G. White books in a new tongue, every few months, brings great satisfaction to the trustees, as another step of progress in the sacred trust bequeathed to them as custodians of the writings.
(To be continued)