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An Eerdmans Century
Larry ten Harmsel
214 pp., $20.00
Stranger in a Strange Land: John Wilson
An Eerdmans Century
The ideal reviewer for this book marking Eerdmans' centennial would be Dutch Reformed, between seventy and eighty years old, with a sharp wit, a deep well of affection, and a long memory well furnished with firsthand anecdotes of Eerdmans' publishing history, the Eerdmans clan, and other related subjects (including Calvin College lore). Several candidates immediately come to mind, and I hope that at least a couple of them will indeed review this book. I fail to meet the criteria, but I do feel deep affection and admiration for Eerdmans, and I can add my bit to the celebration.
The story told by Larry ten Harmsel and Reinder VanTil is wonderfully improbable. William B. Eerdmans, Sr. (referred to throughout the book as "WBE"), one of eleven children born to Bernardus Dirk Eerdmans and Dirkje Pars, emigrated from Friesland—the province of the Netherlands in which he was raised—to the United States in 1901, at the age of nineteen. While studying at John Calvin Junior College (later to become Calvin College and Seminary) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, WBE supported himself by selling religious books. Persuaded that he wasn't cut out for the ministry, he became an importer of religious books and then, in short order, a publisher—a decision arrived at after much prayer, and inspired in part by conversations with Princeton theologian B. B. Warfield (whom WBE visited in New Jersey) and the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck (whom he consulted on a trip home to the Netherlands). WBE, not yet thirty, was an exceptionally enterprising young man.
In the decades that followed, Eerdmans established a distinctive presence as a publisher of theology, biblical studies, and apologetics. Yet from the beginning, the Eerdmans list was eclectic, as ten Harmsel and VanTil make clear, including "thirty-six works of fiction (mostly for younger readers) … between 1930 and 1952" by Bertha B. Moore and "seven booklets (at 40 cents each) of 'inspiring poetic verse' by Annie Johnson ...