Collection of Rare and Important Bibles to be Offered at Swann in 2009

Two of Swann Galleries’ autumn 2009 auctions feature desirable Bibles from the collection of Mel and Julie Meadows—it is the largest offering of Bibles to come up for auction in recent years. The September 17, 2009 auction of Printed & Manuscript Americana offers American examples; while the October 20 Early Printed Books sale features 59 early English Bibles and other religious texts.

1781–82 Aitken Bible

The Aitken Bible, Philadelphia, 1781–82. Sold September 17, 2009, for $43,200.

The Meadows collected important editions of the Bible in English, and among their treasures are such rarities as the 1781–82 Aitken Bible, also known as the Bible of the Revolution. It was the first complete Bible in English printed in America and the only Bible ever authorized by Congress. Fewer than 100 copies are known to exist. Sold for $43,200.

Bay Psalm Book

Bay Psalm Book, circa 1669–82. Sold September 17, 2009, for $57,600.

A later 17th-century edition of the Bay Psalm Book sold for $57,600. This new translation of the Psalms by the colonists was the first book printed in British North America and went through several editions after its original publication in 1640, The copy offered here is thought to date from 1682. All of these editions are extremely scarce and rarely appear on the market.

English Bible Translations

Noteworthy in the October 20, 2009 sale of Medical & Scientific Books / Bibles & Early Printed Books are early editions of the major English Bible translations. These include the 1540 edition of the Great Bible, the first English-language version authorized for public use, here in an early nineteenth-century Masonic binding; a hand-colored copy of the 1552 first illustrated quarto edition of the Tyndale version; the 1560 first edition of the Geneva Bible, which became the household Bible of Elizabethan England; the 1568 first edition of the lavishly illustrated Bishops’ Bible, which replaced the Great Bible as the version authorized for church use; and the 1613-11 second edition of the King James version, known as the “She” Bible because of the reading “she” instead of “he” in Ruth 3:15.

Another Bible with a typographical variation is the “Vinegar Bible,” Oxford, 1717-16, which contains the word “vinegar” instead of “vineyard” in Luke 20, among other misprints.

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