Collection of Rare and Important Bibles to be Offered at Swann

Two of Swann Galleries’ autumn 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 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.

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. Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000.

Also estimated at $40,000 to $60,000 is a later 17th-century edition of the Bay Psalm Book. 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.

Noteworthy in the October 20 sale 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 19th century Masonic binding ($15,000 to $20,000); a hand-colored copy of the 1552 first illustrated quarto edition of the Tyndale version ($15,000 to $25,000); the 1560 first edition of the Geneva Bible, which became the household Bible of Elizabethan England ($20,000 to $30,000); 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 ($10,000 to $15,000).

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 ($3,000 to $5,000).

For schedule of public previews and auctions, please visit Swann Galleries’ website.