Welcome to UCC Resources, the home of The Pilgrim Press, where the oldest publishing operation in the United States embraces the newest publishing technologies.
The Pilgrim Press is a gift of the United Church of Christ for scholars and students, thoughtful laypersons, and church professionals. As an ecumenical endeavor, it strives to discern how God is disclosed in various Christian and world religions.
The History of The Pilgrim Press
The Pilgrim Press was begun by a group of religious dissenters in England who felt excluded by the dominant religious culture. These Puritans or Pilgrims left Scrooby, England, for Holland in 1608. In 1616, they set up a printing operation. Thomas Brewer provided the money. Edward Winslow and John Reynolds were trained printers. And the operation was conducted in William Brewster's house. All indications are, however, that this consisted only of type, which the Pilgrim printers put together and took to Dutch printing presses. They published reprints of standard Puritan works, which were sold in England, Scotland, and a trade fair in Germany.
In 1619, the Pilgrims published several controversial writings about church polity and biblical interpretation that angered established church and Crown authorities. King James I was infuriated and sought to have Brewster arrested on one or another of his clandestine trips to London. The British ambassador in Holland pressured local authorities to shut down the operation. They raided Brewster's house in Leiden--he wasn't there--and confiscated the type. Thomas Brewer, the financier who was on the faculty of the University of Leiden, agreed to surrender to authorities and be taken to London to answer questions about the publishing operation. He used his university privilege to negotiate a guarantee of safe conduct--not as a prisoner, but with passage paid by the British government--both to England and back to Holland. He was released in 1620.
That same year, some Pilgrims sailed to the New World on the Mayflower, while many remained in Europe. Stories that the king's disruptions caused the Pilgrims to set passage to the New World or that the printing type was carried aboard the Mayflower--these are fanciful. Brewster had already been negotiating in London with the Virginia Colony to go to the "New Land" in 1619, when the offending publications first surfaced. The reasons for the Pilgrims leaving Holland were many-layered, but the timing was dictated by the expiration in 1620 of a religious tolerance agreement between Spain and Holland.
The oldest surviving publishing operation in North America, in fact, began as a printing press brought from England in 1638-1639 by the Rev. Jose Glover, on the ship John of London "with some type contributed by some English residents of the Netherlands." This type might be traceable to the printing operation in Leiden that became known as the Pilgrim Press. Its first book was "The Bay Psalms Book" in 1640.
The name "The Pilgrim Press" was not registered until 1895. The Pilgrim Press logo, a representation of the Mayflower on which some Pilgrims came to the New World, stands for the free expression of religious conscience and the need to accept one another in our common course of life.
The Pilgrim Press name was slated (along with Eden Publishing) for retirement in 1957, when several Christian traditions agreed to form the United Church of Christ—and United Church Press, its new publishing imprint. During the national launch of a new curriculum, however, a young black preacher so inspired the attendees from across the U.S., that The Pilgrim Press imprint was retrieved in order to publish The Measure of a Man by Martin Luther King, Jr.--his first book.
In the early 1980s, The Pilgrim Press published Shopping Bag Ladies, which achieved national fame and entered the term in the public lexicon. In the late 1990s, Pilgrim began publishing a series of books supportive of transgender persons.
Throughout its history at its finest moments, The Pilgrim Press has either been seeking out voices marginalized by a dominant culture or seeking to build fully inclusive communities.
 A helpful website from which some of this information was drawn is "Pilgrim Press," www.pilgrimhall.org/pil_press.htm, Website of Pilgrim Hall, museum of Pilgrim history in Plymouth, Mass. See also Dorothy Brewster, William Brewster of the Mayflower: Portrait of a Pilgrim (New York: New York University Press, 1970), p. 75.
 Walter Herbert Burgess, The Pastor of the Pilgrims: A Biography of John Robinson (New York: Harcourt, Brace & Howe, 1920). Robinson, for example, remained in Holland, continuing to lead the Pilgrim Separatists there.
 Samuel Eliot Morison, The Intellectual Life of Colonial New England (New York: New York University Press, 1956) p. 114.
To find out more about making a submission proposal for publication, please click on Submit A Proposal. For more information about the press and its staff, please click on About Staff.