14 June 2011

KJB in a Cupboard

From the title-page
of the St Peter's copy
Towards the end of April I received an email from a resident of Palmerston North (northeast of Wellington) who said he had found 'an old Bible' while rummaging in a cupboard in St Peter's Anglican Church. Naturally my mind turned towards a standard nineteenth-century edition, probably bound in black morocco. I was, however, pleasantly mistaken, for what was found was a 1616 edition of the King James Bible.

Its finder, who wishes to remain in the background of the story, had emailed in the hopes of confirming the exact edition. Thankfully he has an interest in typography and bibliography, and so provided a detailed description of its printing errors. A quick check of ESTC pointed to either the small folio or quarto edition printed by Robert Barker, printer to King James I. Comparing the errors with a digital copy in Early English Books Online (EEBO), I was able to confirm that, yes, St Peter's was indeed in possession of a 1616 KJB, the small folio edition in fact.

Small folio editions of the KJB were intended for church use, particularly churches with little money. The text of the 1616 KJB was based on the 1611 editio princeps with some readings from the 1613 second edition. According to David Norton's The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today (Cambridge, 2010) the 1616 folio 'brought in some twenty new readings, some of which involve a degree of scholarship and seem to draw particularly on older translations. Only a few of these were picked up in subsequent editions from the King's Printer, but the makers of the Cambridge edition of 1629 consulted this folio and so gave currency to some of its readings' (141).

ESTC records thirty copies of the 1616 folio edition, all of which are held by institutions in the northern hemisphere, and primarily in America and the UK. This makes the St Peter's copy number thirty-one and the only recorded copy in Australasia. St Peter's vestry has approved the professional conservation of the Bible, and intends to acquire a secure display cabinet (linked to the church's alarm system) so the Bible can be displayed.

Research has shown that the book was bequeathed to St Peter's by a member of the congregation in 1912. That member, Thomas Pattinson, emigrated from England to New Zealand sometime between 1874 and 1881. Though provenance research is ongoing, it appears Pattinson's lineage stretches back to another Thomas Pattinson born in Scotland around 1615. Were the seventeenth-century Pattinsons practising Anglicans? If so, then it could very well be that the 1616 KJB had been in the family from the time of its printing.

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