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The Ellen G. White Writings

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    The Colporteur Edition of The Great Controversy

    As the 1884 book was running through the press, Seventh-day Adventists having just launched the plan of distributing message-filled books through literature evangelists in door-to-door selling, the publishers thought that this E. G. White book might be sold in this manner. Illustrations were added and a thicker sheet of paper was employed in issuing from the same printing plates a literature-evangelist edition of the book. It caught on immediately. Ten printings rolled from the presses, producing some 50,000 copies of the book. These books were sold largely to the general public by literature evangelists.EGWW 114.3

    In 1885 just as this first colporteur edition of volume 4 was coming from the press Ellen White responded to an invitation to visit Europe and assist in the work opening in the old world. She spent two full years there, living in Switzerland and traveling to points in many countries where our work was becoming established. Knowing of the successful distribution of volume 4 in the United States, leaders in Europe began to plan with her for its translation and publication in some of the main languages.EGWW 115.1

    But at this point Ellen White, sensing that her reading audience had changed from largely Seventh-day Adventist to largely non-Adventist and wishing to present the story in greater detail, asked the brethren to wait until she could enlarge the book and make such adjustments as were appropriate now that it was to serve both the church and the general public. Out of this idea came the long-range plan to rewrite and enlarge the content of the four volumes of the Spirit of Prophecy-Great Controversy series to produce four much larger volumes written for non-Adventists as well as Adventists. This plan was later expanded to include five books of our present Conflict of the Ages Series, namely, Patriarchs and Prophets, Prophets and Kings, The Desire of Ages, The Acts of the Apostles, and The Great Controversy.EGWW 115.2

    In her public ministry Ellen White had always shown an ability to select from the storehouse of truth material adapted to the needs of the congregation before her; and she also recognized that in the choice of subjects for publication in her books, sound judgment should be shown in selecting what was best suited to the needs of those who would read them. Therefore, as she undertook in 1886-1888 to present the great controversy story in a volume for the church and the world, she not only enlarged the presentation but employed phraseology adapted to her readers, and in some cases she left out some presentations. An example of this is seen in the familiar chapter entitled “The Snares of Satan” in The Great Controversy (pages 518-530 in current printings). The first four pages of this chapter as printed in the 1884 book (Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, pp. 337-340 12Note: The four original volumes of Spirit of Prophecy have been issued by the publisher in facsimile reprints, and they may be secured at Adventist Book Centers.) dealt with the manner in which Satan employs Protestant ministers to carry out his objectives in depreciating the seventh-day Sabbath. This subject could be understood by Seventh-day Adventists, but inasmuch as the presentation was now to go to non-Adventists, Ellen White thought that the pages dealing with this should be dropped out of the new and larger book. In 1923 the omitted portions of this chapter were reprinted in Testimonies to Ministers, bringing them back for Adventist reading.EGWW 115.3

    In planning this series of books she decided to leave out of the text proper all such phrases as “I saw,” “I was shown,” and so forth, lest the reader unfamiliar with her call and work might have his attention directed from the message of the books.EGWW 116.1

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