Stirling, John Featherstone
1884-1958; e.m. 1905

Born at Darlington on 6 April 1884, he spent a pre-collegiate year in the Kirkoswald Circuit before training for the ministry at Headingley College. After three years in the Wiltshire Mission, he moved to London (at first in the Prince of Wales Road circuit, then from, 1914 in the Sunday School Department. He served as a Chaplain to the Forces 1916-1919. He then left the ministry on health grounds and worked in publishing, first for Cassells and then for Ivor Nicholson and Watson. In 1943 he joined the British and Foreign Bible Society as its Assistant Literary Superintendent and from 1949 served as Librarian. Among his publications were a Study Bible (1926) and an Atlas of the New Testament (1951). In 1954, he produced what became known as the 'Stirling Bible' as part of the Society's Third Jubilee celebrations, an edition with significant innovations, especially in the use of line drawings and maps by Horace Knowles. He died in December 1958.


'Occupying an influential if indeterminate position on the staff of the Bible House at this time was the gifted John Stirling, who had been appointed in 1943 as an adviser on matters of format and design… He acted for a time as Librarian, but his contributions to the Society's works were many, and with two notable exceptions, unobtrusive. The first of these exceptions consisted of editions of the first three Gospels designed by him in the format of pictorial magazines, a form of journalism which enjoyed great popularity during the years immediately before the general introduction of television. The second was his production of a Bible which incorporated some five hundred line illustrations by Horace Knowles. Intended as one of the Third Jubilee publications, and as a contribution to the repeatedly stated need for a better school Bible, this version, often referred to as "the Stirling Bible", had considerable significance in another respect. It represented the furthest point to which the Society might be said to have deviated, if deviation it was, from its categorical "law one" which excluded "note and comment" from its publications. The view can be held, and was in fact advanced, that illustrations in themselves constituted a form of note and comment. There was, moreover, a limited number of marginal notes which elucidated the meaning of certain difficult though uncontroversial Biblical words. Sections of Old Testament Books which could be regarded as of only restricted interest were printed in smaller type than the rest, and set in three columns to the page instead of two. It was a very tentative and discreet departure from the traditionally rigidity of the Society's rule, and those who deplored it were few indeed compared with those who welcomed the first appearance of the edition in 1954. And although its publication was a feature of the Third Jubilee celebrations, the planning of it and the influences which emanated from Stirling's whole approach to the subject belonged to the "years of transition" after 1946, to the intellectual climate of which he made a significant contribution.'

J.M. Roe, A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society 1905-1954 (1965), pp.442-3

  • J.M. Roe, A History of the British and Foreign Bible Society 1905-1954 (1965)