Lot 86
  • 86

Bible in English [King James Version]

400,000 - 600,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • The Holy Bible, conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: Newly Translated out of the Originall Tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and revised by His Maiesties Speciall Commandement. Appointed to be read in Churches. London: Robert Barker, 1611
  • ink, paper, leather
Royal folio (17 x 11 in.; 431 x 282 mm). Engraved general title-page by Cornelis Boel, woodcut title compartment (McKerrow & Ferguson 213) for New Testament title-page, full-sheet engraved map of the Holy Land, 17 leaves of genealogical tables with woodcut borders and incorporating woodcut illustrations including Adam and Eve, Noah's Ark, the Tower of Babel, and other biblical subjects, calendar and almanac printed in red and black, numerous woodcut head- and tailpieces and historiated and ornamental initials, text in double columns within woodcut rules, gothic and roman letter, 2A1r blank (sometimes found with woodcut royal arms). Some minor and fine repair to lower margin of title and following leaf; fore-edge corners of first 8 leaves slightly worn and/or restored; many fore-edge corners wrinkled, frayed, or restored throughout; final 5 gatherings (V-Aa) with more significant restoration to lower fore-edges (in one or two instance bits of the marginal rules supplied in pen facsimile); C4v (calendar) with pen trials in lower margin; repaired tear in lower margin of New Testament title-page; very occasional light staining. Contemporary London calf over wooden boards, covers with blind frame-rolls (Oldham, English Blind-Stamped Bindings, T.a [2] 913 and HM.g [1] 817), two metal catches preserved on upper cover; a bit scuffed, rebacked.


Sir George Moore (1553–1632), a friend of James I and a principal in the King’s household — Louis H. Silver (1902–1963), Chicago bibliophile; sold, with the rest of his library to — The Newberry Library, Chicago (Sotheby’s London, 8 November 1965, lot 28). acquisition: Purchased at the foregoing sale through John F. Fleming. nb. The Bible is accompanied by the telegram sent by Fleming to Dr. Ryrie the evening of the Silver auction: "Lost Cover Pale [sic] at sixteen thousand pounds bought King James fiftyfive hundred lost Hebrew Psalter 6500 pounds congratulations on buying bargain of sale."


Formatting the Word of God 9.1; Darlow & Moule (Herbert) 309; STC 2216 (+23039: Speed's Genealogies); ESTC S122347; Pforzheimer 61; Printing and the Mind of Man 114; cf. Price & Ryrie, Nicolson, God’s Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible (Harper Collins, 2005)

Catalogue Note

The celebrated Louis Silver copy of the first edition of the King James, or Royal, version of the Bible, “the only literary masterpiece ever to have been produced by a committee,” with "he" in Ruth 3:15 and all other appropriate readings as detailed by Darlow and Moule. The Silver copy, which originally belonged to a close confidant of King James I, is the tallest copy known.

The King James Bible was described by W. A. Jackson as "perhaps the single most important influence upon the development of English prose style." It was royally commissioned, in the hopes of reconciling or ameliorating the conflicts between the Bishops’ Bible, officially read in services, and the Geneva Bible, much more popular among the laity, but mistrusted within much of the Church hierarchy as being aggressively radical, especially in its annotations. An exceptional proportion of the readings of the King James Bible descend, in fact, directly from Tyndale's Bible (1535). Two editions of the lectern-size King James Bible were printed close together, and their relative priorities were long disputed among Victorian bibliophiles, until the question was settled by the Rev. W. E. Smith, 1890. They are most easily distinguished as the "He" Bible and "She" Bible, according to their readings at Ruth 3:15 (Bb2r). The first edition, as here, ends "and he went into the citie" (following the Hebrew text), and the second edition reads "and she went & " (following the Latin Vulgate). Most copies of the "He" Bible, like the present, have a fine engraved general title-page executed by Christian Boel.