First formed for the dissemination of the Sacred Scriptures, but in time extended their scope so as to embrace the twofold work of translating and editing.
The first real Bible Society was the Von Canstein Bible Institute of Saxony, founded in 1710, and still thriving in Halle, Germany.
As Protestantism developed, these societies were multiplied.
England, Wales, Ireland, the Scandinavian countries, and France had each their own foundations, though many of these were supported by the British and Foreign Bible Society, an organization established in 1804.
In the United States the years 1808 and 1809 saw the institution of these societies in New York, Boston, Hartford, Princeton, and Philadelphia.
In 1816 Elias Boudinot, president of the New Jersey Bible Society, succeeded in uniting some 128 local societies into the American Bible Society, which still functions at Astor Place, New York City.
The Catholic Church has steadfastly refused to endorse these societies or their activities, because as the Divinely authorized custodian and interpreter of the Sacred Scriptures, she has deemed inadvisable the dissemination of the bare text, which needs emendation and explanation in so many places; and because these societies have repeatedly shown hostility to the Church by their many attempts to impose unauthorized and mutilated Protestant versions of the Bible on Catholic peoples; and also because of their lack of good faith, for they have never offered to spread among Catholics a Catholic version with imprimatur and approved notes.
New Catholic Dictionary