Deeply rooted in the historic Christian tradition, ecumenical in spirit, and open to emerging dialogue between denominations and with other faiths, Eerdmans is committed to the life of the religious academy, to the church, and to the role of religion in culture, while continually diversifying its body of work so as to reach an even wider audience of academics, faith leaders, and general readers.
The son of a Dutch textile manufacturer, William B. Eerdmans Sr. immigrated to Grand Rapids from the Netherlands in 1902 and began peddling books to support himself while attending Calvin Theological Seminary. In 1911 Eerdmans quit the seminary, convinced that he would be “a misfit in the ministry,” and on August 16, 1911, he and Brant Sevensma formed the Eerdmans-Sevensma Company, a dealership specializing in theological textbooks.
By 1922 Eerdmans was sole owner of the company, then renamed the William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Many of the earliest Eerdmans books were classic theological works by European scholars, and the initial volumes were printed in the Dutch language.
The company distinguished itself in the early years with its numerous volumes on and about John Calvin, including a new printing of the 50-volume Commentary of John Calvin published at a cost of $300,000.
Through philanthropic book awards, generous financial backing of Christian organizations, and William Eerdmans’s propensity for publishing only those books which lived up to his standards of excellence, the company’s reputation steadily spread.
Although much of its initial success was predicated on theological and reference works, Eerdmans also concerned itself with other genres. In the Fall 1945 issue of the Eerdmans Quarterly Observer, William Eerdmans elaborated on the scope of the company:
“We should not limit ourselves to a certain field or type of book. There are good books in all the various phases of life and human experience. We should feed our minds with a variety of thoughts, as we do our stomachs with a variety of foods… Great books are like mountain tops. They take us toward the skies, a new realm, and a new vision of the world and creation… The greatest of all books are those that bring us near Divine truth, with a message of righteousness to all mankind.”William B. Eerdmans, Sr.
That sort of continuing commitment has, over the years, brought into the Eerdmans fold a wide range of authors. The press continues to pursue this ideal by diversifying the books and authors published under its name.
When William B. Eerdmans Sr. died in 1966, his son, William B. Eerdmans Jr., became the new president and maintained the company’s high literary and intellectual standards throughout his tenure.
The social ferment of the 1960s introduced a new sphere of books to the company. With the belief that responsible viewpoints from all along the Christian spectrum should be given opportunity for expression, Eerdmans welcomed books on social criticism, politics, and a myriad of current issues from racism to sexuality to medical ethics. Amid these exciting forays into new publishing territory, the mainstay of the Eerdmans list remains numerous commentaries and scholarly reference works like the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament, the New International Commentary series, and the Commentaries for Christian Formation series, as well as various works of systematic theology and religious history, including the popular Library of Religious Biography series.
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers (EBYR) began in 1995 and has become a globally renowned imprint. EBYR titles consistently earn high praise and starred reviews along with numerous awards, including the Batchelder Honor, awarded to Different: A Story of the Spanish Civil War by Mónica Montañés and Eva Sánchez Gómez, translated by Lawrence Schimel as well as the prestigious Caldecott Honor, given to A River of Words: The Story of William Carlos Williams and The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus, both by Jen Bryant and Melissa Sweet.
In 2014, William B. Eerdmans Jr. stepped down as president and was succeeded by Anita Eerdmans, who remains the president and publisher—only the third president in the company’s long and storied history. The company stays committed to serving its readers and providing engaging books for the benefit of the ecumenical church and academia.
Located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company is an independent publisher of religious books, from academic books and scholarly works in theology, biblical studies, and religious history to popular titles in spirituality, ministry, and cultural criticism.
As Eerdmans proceeds into the future, continuing to grow its traditional cloth and paper offerings, it has also become increasingly creative in its approach, embracing new platforms such as ebooks, audiobooks, and print-on-demand. After over one hundred years, it holds firmly to the motto established by its founder, William B. Eerdmans Sr.
“The finest in religious literature.”
William B. Eerdmans Sr. believed that responsible viewpoints from across the religious spectrum should be given opportunity for expression and that high literary and intellectual standards were of utmost importance. His publishing company continues to operate according to these beliefs today.