In the early 1950s, a young immigrant named Sam Moore arrived in New York and launched his own business by selling Bibles door-to-door. His success in this endeavor provided Moore with the funds to establish the National Book Company, which merged with Royal Publishers in 1961. Moore again demonstrated his business acumen at Royal Publishing and in 1964 he purchased the Thomas Nelson American division, a British-owned company, and merged the two publishing companies.
Thomas Nelson possessed a long and distinguished name in British publishing. Thomas Nelson, the founder of the company that bears his name, migrated from Scotland to London, where he was employed by a small publisher of religious literature. Eventually, Nelson returned to Edinburgh and established his own shop. Although his early success came through the sale of secondhand books, Nelson became interested in publishing inexpensive literature for larger audiences. His first publications included excerpts from Pilgrim’s Progress, Robinson Crusoe, and The Vicar of Wakefield. Nelson soon gained recognition for his publication of classic literature and eventually published over four hundred volumes bearing the “Nelson Classics” name.
To meet the increasing demands, Nelson and his two sons, Thomas II and William, developed innovative publishing methods that continue to be felt in the modern publishing industry. Nelson was the first publishing company to send salesmen to individual bookshops and establish good public relations with customers. The Nelson brothers also developed innovative printing and binding processes including the rotary press.
In 1854 Thomas Nelson II immigrated and established an office on Bleeker Street in New York, becoming the first British publisher to expand into the growing American market. With the purchase of a bindery in Camden, New Jersey, Nelson Publishers became one of the few publishers to manufacture completely in America. The company eventually expanded into the publication of Bibles, textbooks, and church literature. In the 1940s Nelson published the first editions of the American Standard Version Bible and the Revised Standard Version Bible. Since then, it has published eight other translations of the Bible.
In 1972 Sam Moore moved Thomas Nelson Publishers to Nashville, already a center for religious publishing. Since the late 1980s, the company has experienced explosive growth. It acquired Word Publishing and the C. R. Gibson gift company, which brought the publisher to a large audience. In 1997 Thomas Nelson Publishers introduced Nelson’s Electronic Bible Reference Library on CD-ROM. The company now employs over 525 Tennesseans.
Thomas Nelson Publishers celebrated its two-hundredth anniversary in 1998, having risen from a one-man, secondhand bookseller in Edinburgh, Scotland, to become a leader in the Christian publishing industry. Today Thomas Nelson is one of the largest Bible publishers in the world, continuing a literary tradition that begins with John Bunyan and goes on to Billy Graham.