The British and Foreign Bible Society was formed in March 1804 with the intension of distributing very large numbers of Bibles in many editions and many languages at affordable prices. Among the founders were politician, philanthropist and anti-slavery reformer William Wilberforce and Welsh clergyman Thomas Charles. Among the first goals of the society was to distribute affordable Bibles in Welsh to Welsh-speaking Christians, but the first book that the society actually published in 1804 was a translation of the Gospel of John into Mohawk.
By 1805 Oxford University Press had adopted the improved Stanhope stereotyping process as promoted by printer Andrew Wilson, and on March 11, 1806 Wilson published and 44 page pamphlet entitled Arbitration between the University of Cambridge and Andrew Wilson also with respect to publishing stereotyped Bibles, calculating savings gained or expected to be gained through the stereotype process since Wilson's preliminary agreement with Cambridge dated April 20, 1804. In his pamphlet Wilson suggests that it was he, rather than Stanhope, who perfected the new stereotype process. The documentation of savings to be gained from stereotyping published in Wilson's pamphlet undoubtedly gave the British and Foreign Bible Society the incentive to employ Wilson as well, though it did not have a similar immediate effect on other publishers.
In 1807 Wilson produced for the Society 7000 copies of a pocket-sized edition of the New Testament in French for distribution to some of the 100,000 French prisoners of war imprisoned in England during the Napoleonic Wars. This is confirmed in the Society's Fourth Report for 1808 p. 14. Why they decided to publish and donate 7000 copies, rather than more or less, is unknown, but presumably they took into account the limited percentage of prisoners who would have been literate, and the expectation that copies would be shared.
My copy is only slightly browned, indicating that the Society paid for less expensive paper, and shows little signs of use, suggesting that it is a copy that escaped the notoriously awful prison conditions of the time. The binding is a kind of cat's paw calf, and on the upper cover is the circular blind-stamp of the British and Foreign Bible Society. There is no spine label; it looks like an economical edition binding. This was probably the first book printed in French by the Stanhope process of stereotyping.
Within a very a few years the British and Foreign Bible Society became one of the largest book publishers in England.