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Old Book Continues To Find New Readers


Martyrs Mirror front cover

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Mennonite Church Canada/Mennonite Publishing Network joint release
October 30, 2009
-John Longhurst

WATERLOO, Ont. and SCOTTDALE, Pa.—The goal of every publisher is to make sure there are new books for readers to buy—books that address current issues, topics and situations.

So it may come as a surprise to learn that one of the most popular books from Herald Press, the book division of Mennonite Publishing Network (MPN), is almost 350 years old.

The book in question is Martyrs Mirror, the timeless classic about the persecution and martyrdom of Christians from the time of Christ to the 16th century, with a special emphasis on the suffering of Anabaptists in Europe.

Published in 1660 in Holland by Thieleman J. van Braght to strengthen the faith of other believers, the book graphically recounts the torture and death of over 4,000 Christians.

In addition to stories about various martyrs, it contains songs, letters, prayers and etchings by noted Dutch artist Jan Luyken.

Altogether, MPN has sold over 72,000 copies of Martyrs Mirror. That includes an order for 500 this year from Pathway Publishers, a distributor and publisher in Ontario that serves Amish and conservative Mennonite communities. Since 1995 Pathway has ordered over 7,000 copies of the book.

“Next to the Bible, it’s a must-have for Amish and conservative Mennonite families,” says David Luthy of Pathway. “It’s still a very much alive book.”

The book is considered so special that couples are given a copy as a wedding present. “It’s like giving a sacred gift,” says author and historian John Ruth, who has written extensively about the Amish.

It is also given by some Amish and conservative Mennonite groups to church leaders when they are ordained, he says.

But it’s not just people from those groups who buy the book—almost 800 copies have been sold through Amazon.

“It is attractive to many people today because it speaks about how being a Christian means being different from the rest of society, and how that commitment can expose us to danger and lead to persecution and death,” adds Ruth. “It is a very inspiring and iconic book.”

Mennonite Publishing Network is the publishing ministry of Mennonite Church USA and Mennonite Church Canada, providing materials that equip the church to experience and share the gospel from an Anabaptist perspective.