The Sinners’ Bible

The Wicked Bible, is the Bible published in 1631 by Martin Lucas and Robert Barker who happened to be the royal printers of London. It is also known as Adulterous Bible or Sinners’ Bible. But why is it called so?

Title page of the Wicked Bible

This reprint of the King James Bible had its name derived from a error made by the compositors- in Exodus 20:14, where the Ten Commandments are listed, a word was omitted. This changed the meaning of the entire sentence.

It was the seventh commandment which was supposed to be read as, “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. But the word “not” was omitted, thus changing the sentence into “Thou shalt commit adultery”!

This infamous blunder was spread in a number of copies.

After a year, the publishers were summoned to the Star Chamber and fined £300 (equivalent to £45,051 as of 2015) and deprived of their printing license too.

And the fact that this edition of the Bible contained such a blatant error outraged Charles I and George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said:

I knew the time when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.

So what happened to the printed copies. Those were immediately cancelled, seized and burned, and the number of extant copies remaining today is thought to be relatively low, and are considered highly valuable by collectors.

AVAILABLE SURVIVING COPIES

One copy is in the collection of rare books in the New York Public Library and isn’t made accessible often. In fact, it rarely happens.

Another copy can be seen in the Dunham Bible Museum in Houston, Texas, USA.

 The British Library in London had a copy on display, opened to the misprinted commandment, in a free exhibition until September 2009. The Wicked Bible also appeared on display for a limited time at the Ink and Blood Exhibit in Gadsden, Alabama, from August 15 to September 1, 2009. A copy was also displayed until June 18, 2011 at the Cambridge University Library exhibition in England, for the 400-year anniversary of the KJV.

VALUE

As of 2008, a copy of the Wicked Bible was being offered for sale online, priced at $89,500. The displayed book was priced at $99,500 as of 2015.

In 2015, one of the remaining ten Wicked Bibles was put on auction by Bonhams.

The Wicked Bible remains a prominent example of Bible errata, wherin an absent negative entirely reverses the meaning of the scripture.

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