In a letter to Stennett dated 28th December, 1813, Ward writes:
'We are here carried forward, the prospects still widening, ten presses,(1) and nearly 200 people are employed about the printing office - I know not how it would be if conversions among the natives were very numerous, our hands are so full with translating and other foundation work. I am encouraged to hope, that the foundation is not thus laying, to such an extent and to such a depth without reason. I cannot help thinking, that our successors will have a large building to raise, and that their hands and hearts will be filled with baptizings, building up of churches, rejoicing in the prosperity of Zion. What triumphs await the "Lamb once slain" over the idols, the cast, the festivals and horrid orgies, the religious suicides and murders of India. Our hands are too few, our days too short, our strength is too small for this prodigious work. Serampore, Jessore, Cutwa, Malda, Dinagepore, Patna, Digah, Allahabad, Agra, Sirdhana, Nagpore, Surat, Orissa, Calcutta, Burmah, Java, &c. &c. are supplied with the messengers of salvation; and now we are called by the Governor general to send men to Amboyna. More help is wanted at Java and in the Burman empire, and, from Mount Himalaya to the Cape of Good Hope, nothing is heard but "Lord of the harvest, God of grace, Send down thy heav'nly rain."
Pray thou, - pray ye, O ye favoured inhabitants of the land of the Druids, to the Lord of the harvest, that he would thrust out labourers, hard-working, or as Puritans (of immortal memory) would have said, painful preachers of the word. What a field among fifty millions of British subjects for itinerants, for authors, translators, catechists! What multitudes of christian works will be wanted! We have not been able to print one good argumentative work against idolatry - not one elaborate defence of Christianity. We have let off nothing but squibs; the Hindoo pundits have not yet felt in their learned languages the weight of christian artillery, except in one or two parts of the Bible. We have not yet had the honour of attack from a Hindoo scholar. These times are all to come:- they are coming. This struggle will be a tough one; the Hindoo disputants are very subtle, used to dispute; ingenious too, and will insist on a reason for everything. One of them set me fast the other day by asking me, how the earth was void, (the earth was without form and void), how could solid matter be void?
In the Report on Translation for the year 1813, special mention is made of the important improvements the missionaries had effected in the preparation of Chinese type.
The first edition of the Gospels in Chinese had been printed from wooden blocks that had been engraved by local workmen. This was the traditional method of printing Chinese. It was clear that further revised editions would be very expensive to produce, due to the necessity of engraving the blocks again for each successive edition. It seemed advisable to attempt to introduce the more practical European system of movable metal type.
To achieve this, blank cubes of type metal were cast at the usual height, on which workmen engraved the Chinese character. The metal type was found to give 5 times the number of impressions obtained from wooden blocks. The use of separate pieces of type gave the translator the advantage of making successive corrections to the proofs. Where the character was repeated often enough, a steel punch was made, from which any number of characters could be cast.
The punchcutter had created a considerable number of these punches before Mr. Lawson arrived, but under his direction, they greatly improved in beauty and accuracy.
This is one of the most important improvements in Chinese printing since its invention, 20 centuries ago. It originated, and was matured at Serampore, and was taken up by other missionary bodies. It revolutionised the printing of Chinese.
In December 1814 Ward writes of several trying dispensations.
'I think, I informed you of the death of my dear child Mary, and perhaps I have mentioned also, that my daughter Amelia has been deprived of the sight of one eye by a neglected cold. Since that time my dear wife has been suffering for many months, under an obstruction of the liver. She still languishes, unable to attend to any active employment, and enduring almost constant pain. She has taken very large quantities of mercury, though she takes it in small doses. She still has a good appetite and sleeps well, and these things give me hope, that she may be restored to me. These afflictions teach me sometimes more of what life really is - a dream, an empty shade, a morning flower. My daughter Hannah is about ten years old, and, upon the whole, a very promising and lovely child. But who shall say whether the flower will not wither, while we admire its beauties; but "passion be still, and dumb be pride, and fixed my soul, O God, on thee." She appears to have some relish for piety, though I fear, she is not under saving impressions of religion.'
These fond hopes of Mrs. Ward's speedy convalescence were not, however, realised. The complaint gained ground so much that in the following year it was judged expedient to send her back to England. She embarked in the summer of 1815 with her eldest daughter Amelia, and after spending some time among friends, returned to India much restored.
(1) A clue to the fact that the presses Ward referred to are wooden, or 'common presses', can be found when examining the Serampore books in the collection of the Derby Local Studies Library. These date from 1803 to 1818. Clearly the ink strength is far from black. When a wooden press is used it is not possible to get an even overall inking to the sheet due to the lack of force in the wooden screw thread. The paper has to be prepared the day before by dampening with water. This therefore dilutes the strength of the ink colour when the paper is printed. The iron press, invented in 1800, uses levers to apply an even force and no dampening of the paper is necessary. This leaves the ink blacker, and therefore undiluted.