Thomas Nelson

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Thomas Nelson is a publishing firm that began in Scotland in 1798 as the namesake of its founder. Its former US division is currently the sixth largest American trade publisher and the world's largest Christian publisher. In Canada, the brand is used for educational publishing by Thomson Corporation. In the UK, it was a mainstream publisher until the late 20th Century and is now part of another educational imprint, Nelson Thornes.

They are the publishers of the American Standard Version, the American revision of Westcott and Hort's perverted English Revised Version. They are also the publishers of the Revised Standard Version, the revision of the American Standard. To this day they continue to sell at least six corrupt translations.


British history

Thomas Nelson founded the company that bears his name in Edinburgh in 1798, originally as a second-hand religious bookshop but soon diversifying into publishing reprints of Puritan writers. The firm went on to become a publisher of new books, and as the nineteenth century progressed it produced an increasingly wide range of non-religious materials; by 1881 religion accounted for less than 6% of the firm's output.

By the early twentieth century, Thomas Nelson had become a secular concern in the UK. Until 1968, it specialized in producing popular literature, children's books, Bibles, religious works and educational texts.

In 2000, it was acquired by Wolters Kluwer and became part of the educational imprint Nelson Thornes.

Original American history

The American branch of Thomas Nelson was set up in 1854 in New York, and by the 1870s it was one of the city's most important firms. It held the copyright for the American Standard Version of the Bible from 1901 until 1928, when it transferred the copyright to the International Council of Religious Education In the 1930s, the company made a deal with this Council (which later became part of the National Council of Churches) to publish the Revised Standard Version. Following an ownership change in 1960, which the firm was sold to The Thomson Organization, changes happened, and in 1962 the company’s failure to meet demand for this Bible translation led to the National Council of Churches granting other publishers licenses for the work, leading to a dramatic fall in revenue.

Current US Company

In 1950, 19-year old Sam Moore came to Columbia, South Carolina, with an intent to pursue medical training. To pay his way through college at the University of South Carolina, and later Columbia Bible College, Moore began to sell Bibles door-to-door. The Lebanese immigrant had a strong sense of American patriotism and free enterprise and used it to establish the National Book Company in 1958, and in 1961, established Royal Publishers, and sold stock in the firm a year later, with notable shareholders including Morrow Coffey Graham, mother of noted evangelist Billy Graham.

Royal Publishers' success for five years, more than doubling sales every year, and resulted in the Thomson Organization asking if he would take control of Nelson's North American operations. Instead, Moore surprised the firm by offering to purchase the company instead, and Moore took over on March 7, 1969, preferring to keep the company's name and logo. In Canada, the brand continues as Thomson Nelson, an educational imprint.

Nelson in 1976 developed the New King James Bible (also known as the Revised Authorized Version) and under Moore began diversifying the company with a gift division.

In 1992, Thomas Nelson Inc began its modern advancement. Nelson purchased the Word music and books brand from Capital Cities-ABC. In 1997, the company split the two, spinning off the record label and printed music division, one of the largest church music companies, to Gaylord Entertainment. That led to a lawsuit by Gaylord in 2001 over the Word name, and was settled when Nelson renamed their book division the W Publishing Group. That year also led to a corporate expansion by the purchase of the Cool Springs and Rutledge Hill Press labels.

In 2003, World Bible Publishers was acquired by Nelson, and also the fiction label WestBow Press made its debut. Also, an imprint for internet news source WorldNetDaily made its debut that year. The agreement dissolved, however, after 2004, and the former WND brand is now under the Nelson Current brand, including its authors.

Thomas Nelson, now based in Nashville, publishes the leading Christian authors, including Billy Graham. Max Lucado, John Eldredge, John Maxwell,Charles Stanley, and Ted Dekker.

Thomas Nelson Inc in 2000 began marketing the Women of Faith women's conference, a concept devised by author Stephen Arterburn in 1995, after attending a church conference in Atlanta. Today, the Women of Faith conference is one of the best-known women's events around North America, attracting over 400,000 women annually. In 2005, Thomas Nelson launched the Revolve teen conferences, built on the Women of Faith model.

Michael S. Hyatt, a twenty-five year veteran of the publishing industry, became President and CEO of the company on August 18, 2005, succeeding Sam Moore who served as the company's CEO for nearly 47 years.

In February 2006 it was announced that private equity firm InterMedia Partners, in conjunction with some other investors, had agreed to buy Thomas Nelson for $473 million. The transaction closed on June 12, 2006. The company now operates as a private company.

Note: Thomas Nelson, the corporate publisher discussed in this article, should not be confused with the person, Thomas Nelson, who owns the Catholic publishing house TAN Books located in Rockford, Illinois.


  • Dempster, John A. H., "Thomas Nelson and Sons in the Late Nineteenth Century: A Study in Motivation, Part One", in Publishing History, 13, 1983, pp. 41-87; "Part Two" in Publishing History, 14, 1983, pp. 5-63.
  • Moore, Sam, American By Choice: The Remarkable Fulfilment of an Immigrant’s Dreams, Nashville: Nelson, 1998.
  • Tebbel, John, A History of Book Publishing in the United States, New York and London: Bowker, four volumes, 1972-1981.

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