W.E. Vine's Dictionary

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W.E. Vine and his dictionary

W.E. Vine was an assistant headmaster at a boarding school in Exeter, England until in 1909, at the age of 36, he began working for Echoes of Service, an organization that supported and encouraged missionaries who were starting churches around the world, particularly missionaries sent out from Brethren assemblies. At one time, Vine kept six secretaries busy writing regular correspondence with more than 1,000 missionaries.

He and his wife, Phoebe, had five children, whom he enjoyed immensely. He and the children played games, sang songs, enjoyed the outdoors, and rowed, sailed and swam at the seashore. He was a man of great humor.

He is remembered, however, for his writings, most notably his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The success of the Dictionary came because of its wide distribution in the United States, but with very little financial benefit to its author. The Dictionary was originally published in England between 1939 and 1941 in four volumes so that each one could be made available as Vine completed it.

When Vine received the proofs of the first volume from his publisher, Oliphants, he recruited a clergyman in Cambridge to help him read the proofs. When the clergyman could not continue, Vine called upon F.F. Bruce, who was teaching Greek at Leeds University at the time, to help him with the typescript of the final three volumes before it went to the printer and then the final reading of the proofs. Vine said that Bruce’s “wholehearted assistance, . . . efficiency, . . . and knowledge of the originals have enhanced the value” of the Dictionary.

W.E. Vine paid for the extensive editing by F.F. Bruce and the typesetting of the Dictionary himself and it remained available only in four volumes until after the death of W.E. Vine in 1949. F.F. Bruce oversaw the combination of the four volumes into one, and it was published in 1952 by Oliphants, which had been owned by Marshall, Morgan & Scott since 1945.

Oliphants’s one-volume edition was printed on thin paper and was not a very high quality production. Nevertheless, it was exported to the United States, where it was sold by Fleming Revell, a New Jersey company founded in 1870 by the brother-in-law of evangelist Dwight Moody.

Hugh Barbour’s family owned Revell and when he got out of the military in 1953 he became a book salesman on the West Coast of America. In 1955 he moved to New Jersey and assumed responsibility for selling subsidiary rights, which included book club sales.

Les Doniger at Evangelical Book Club, a division of Doubleday, told Hugh Barbour that he wanted to offer Vine’s Dictionary as a new-member premium. Revell secured American rights and printed copies of the Dictionary at the same time as the book club printed its copies. It was the best new-member premium the Evangelical Book Club ever offered. Stanley Grant at Marshall Morgan & Scott “was not too happy with Marshall’s share of the royalty on the Evangelical Book Club sales,” said Hugh, “but because the Evangelical Book Club sold (or gave away) so many copies, it turned out well for Marshall Morgan & Scott in the end.” However, somewhere along the line, the book inadvertently went out of copyright in the United States. That let other publishers print and sell it and Revell stopped paying royalties to Marshall Morgan & Scott.

Hugh Barbour and his brother, Bill, sold Revell to Scott Forsman in 1978, and Scott Forsman sold it to Zondervan in 1983, which sold it to Guideposts in 1986, which sold it to Baker Books in 1992.

In the late 1980s Robert Hicks, a publisher and entrepreneur in Bath, England, met Helen, Christine, Winifred, and Jeannette, the daughters of W.E. Vine. They told him that over a period of 20 years they had received only 20 pounds in royalties from Marshall, Morgan, & Scott – 1 pound per year. Robert took this up with HarperCollins (which had purchased Marshall, Morgan & Scott by this time) and HarperCollins graciously paid the Vine estate a lump sum. Except for whatever royalties were paid on the Oliphants books sold in the U.S., the Vine estate never received any substantial royalties from the U.S.

The General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) is a 1947 agreement among many nations to promote international trade. In the 1980s a major revision created the World Trade Organization and also provided a way for books that inadvertently were in public domain in the United States but were protected by copyright in the originating country to have the copyright restored. Working with Thomas Nelson publishers in the United States, Robert Hicks – on behalf of the Vine estate – restored the copyright of Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. The resulting royalties have been used for Bible distribution and missionary purposes including the establishment of a retreat center in Spain for young people and missionaries called, appropriately, Casa Vina – Vine’s House.