Bible societies, a movement formed for the translation, printing, and dissemination of the Holy Scriptures; for much of its history it was predominantly Protestant, but there now is considerable Roman Catholic and Orthodox involvement. The Canstein Bible Society established (1710) by Baron von Canstein at Halle, Germany was an important early organization. In 1780 the Bible Society was formed in England to distribute Bibles among soldiers and sailors; the name was later changed to the Naval and Military Bible Society. A pioneer and leader is the British and Foreign Bible Society founded (1804) in London, beginning its work with Welsh Bibles for Thomas Charles. With branches throughout the world, it has distributed Bibles in hundreds of languages. In the United States the formation of Bible societies began early in the 19th cent. Delegates from these associations founded (1816) the American Bible Society, which has many affiliates. Through its work, the Bible has been translated into many languages and has been distributed widely. A 1898 meeting in Boscobel, Wis., led to the founding of the Christian Commercial Men's Association of America, more usually known as the Gideons, International. Its program of placing Bibles in hotel rooms for use by commercial travelers and others has made the organization internationally known. In 1946, delegates from 13 countries formed an international association known as the United Bible Societies, with headquarters in London and in Geneva; there are now 127 member societies.
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