“OF CARDINAL IMPORTANCE FOR ITS INFLUENCE ON THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, LITERATURE AND THOUGHT": EARLY 17TH-CENTURY EDITION OF THE “BREECHES” BIBLE IN A BEAUTIFUL CONTEMPORARY ELABORATELY GILT BINDING
BIBLE. The Bible, that is, the holy Scriptures conteined in the Olde and Newe Testament… London: Deputies of Christopher Barker, 1599 [i.e., Amsterdam: J.F. Stam, 1630s or later]. Octavo, contemporary full black calf, elaborately gilt-decorated boards and spine.
Early 17th-century illustrated edition (dated London 1599, but likely printed later, in Amsterdam) of the Geneva Bible—popularly known as the “Breeches Bible” or “Elizabethan family Bible” and arguably the most significant Protestant translation of Scripture prior to the King James—with four woodcut maps and 26 in-text woodcut illustrations. A beautiful copy in an elaborately gilt contemporary binding.
Upon Queen Mary's accession in 1553, "publication of the English Bible ceased in England. Many Protestants who fled to the Continent were attracted to Calvin's Geneva. Among these exiles were eminent English Bible scholars who began work on a new translation" (Bible 100 Landmarks 62). First published in 1560, the Geneva Bible— often called the "Breeches Bible" for its rendering of Genesis 3:7— was "more scholarly than any previous translation… [It] achieved immediate popularity and exerted an extremely powerful influence… The Geneva Version included prefaces, maps and tables; and for the first time in an English Bible the verses were divided and numbered… It has been more properly called the Elizabethan family Bible, since it was this version which was the first to enter the English home" (PMM 83). "It became the textus receptus for the Puritan element in England. It was read by Shakespeare, Bunyan and the soldiers of the Civil War, and is thus of cardinal importance for its influence on the English language, literature and thought" (Great Books and Book Collectors, 105-8). With woodcut vignette on title page, divisional title before the Psalms, separate New Testament title page (also dated 1599), woodcut initials and 30 woodcut text illustrations, including maps of the Garden of Eden and the Holy Land and views of the Tabernacle and the Temple. Without the Apocrypha, as almost always. "These Bibles were printed probably for English use in the Low Countries… The nominal date, 1599, is probably untrue in almost every case; they were apparently published at different times in Amsterdam and Dort and adopted by Barker. The phenomena of the various editions described under the year 1599, and the very similar edition of 1633, constitute one of the most curious problems in the bibliography of the English Bible" (Darlow & Moule 188). This copy with Esther 1:1 reading "seven and/ twenty provinces." Bound with a 1637 Edinburgh metrical psalter. Darlow & Moule 190. Herbert 251D. STC 2176. Bookplate of John Francis Neylan, an esteemed San Francisco lawyer associated with William Randolph Hearst who served for decades as a regent of the University of California. Early owner signatures on pastedowns and blank leaves, particularly the one before the New Testament title page.
A few leaves with closed tears or minor repairs, only ever affecting a few words; contemporary binding with minor wear to corners, rubbing to spine and joints, with magnificently gilt covers bright and beautiful. A wonderful copy.