John Kitto is remembered as the compiler of the best Bible Encyclopedias up to his time. Ironically, it was a tragic accident which prepared the way for his fame.
(The folowing information about John Kitto comes from - http://www.gospelcom.net/chi/DAILYF/2002/11/daily-11-25-2002.shtml - which is an excellent resource and well worth visiting.. )
Education was not mandatory when John was born into a poor family in Plymouth in 1804. So he picked it up where he could. He had only three years of schooling--in four schools. But he learned enough to devour any book that came into his hand.
At the age of twelve he was assisting his father, a mason. That is when his life permanently changed. He fell 35 feet while carrying slate tiles up a ladder. Although he recovered from most of the injuries caused by his fall, he was never again able to hear.
John's grandmother died the following year. The boy was placed in a workhouse in Plymouth, England. The authorities apprenticed him to a shoe maker. This man was so cruel to deaf John that the magistrates sent the boy back to the workhouse.
Doors now opened to him. The governors of the poorhouse provided a little money to support him and obtained permission for him to work at the public library. When he was nineteen, a dentist hired him. The following year, a mission society trained him as a printer. Despite his deafness, the mission sent him to do a job in Malta. Immediately afterward, he traveled in Russia, Turkey, Egypt and other eastern lands with a private mission. With close observations, he accumulated treasures of knowledge which found their way into his later writings. He was so spunky that he even opened a school in Baghdad!
Back in England, John assisted Charles Knight in producing the Penny Cyclopedia. From then on, he produced works of his own, including The Pictorial Bible, Pictorial History of Palestine, Cyclopedia of Biblical Literature and more. He founded the Journal of Sacred Literature. One of his books was called The Lost Senses, Deafness and Blindness.
He also wrote poems. In one of them, "Alternative," he said that he would give all the sounds he had missed if in exchange he might have just one whisper of heaven. He went on to add,
If the great deep now offered all The treasures in her bosom stored, And at my feet I could now call That might hoard! I'd spurn it utterly for some Small treasure in the world to come.
Before his death at age fifty, John was made an honorary Doctor of Divinity and a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries. The government awarded him a pension. He died near Stuttgard, Germany on this day November 25, 1854. He had gone there to try the mineral springs.
1. "John Kitto." Dictionary of National Biography. (London: Smith, Elder and co., 1885-1901).
2. Holden, David. Select Seed from the Granary. (Private publication).
3. "John Kitto." Encyclopedia Americana. (1956).
4. Wright, W. H. K. West-Country Poets: Their Lives and Works.,/i> [transcribed by Sandra Windeatt] (www.windeatt.f2s.com/poets/Kitto_J.html)