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Other Methodist-affiliated publishing operations, as they shut down, also bequeathed books, printed sermons and tracts, and even hand printing presses to the publishing house.

Milford has lately led staff in photographing and writing descriptions of about 80 old books. But there’s a clue in so many of them having a bookplate or some other marker from the Western Book Concern.

As it prepares to move within Nashville, The United Methodist Publishing House is deciding what to do about its rare book collection.The Methodist Episcopal Church was established in the United States in 1784, and within five years had a publishing house in Philadelphia.The Methodist Book Concern, as it was called, was led by clergyman John Dickins.The publishing house, a self-sustaining part of The United Methodist Church, has sold two of four parcels in downtown Nashville, where it has long been based.A third By May’s end, operations should be fully moved to Nashville’s Metro Center, about five miles away.The collection includes seven hand presses, some dating to the 1800s.“We’ve had some consultation with a Nashville hand printer, who’s been giving us some guidance about what we have,” Milford said.Known first as The Methodist Publishing House, then as The United Methodist Publishing House after the 1968 merger creating the current denomination, the Nashville headquarters has long had a substantial library.Many of that library’s rare books came from the Western Book Concern at its 1939 closing.But Milford’s work with books-in-progress has been interrupted by work with books centuries old.So he puts on his gloves, and brings other tools to bear.

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