Rare Wicked Bible set for auction at Bonhams



2015-10-21 09:35:35

An upcoming Bonhams book auction will include a highly rare copy of the 'Wicked' Bible.

Regarded as one of the world's most notorious printings of the Bible, the edition was printed in 1631 with a single, notable misprint.

In the book of Exodus, amongst the list of the Ten Commandments Moses brings down from the mountain, is the seventh commandment: "Thou shalt commit adultery".

Around 1,000 copies of the book, also known as the 'Adulterous' or 'Sinners' Bible', were originally published by the royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas. It wasn't until a year later that the mistake was spotted, and the two men were summoned by King Charles I to the Star Chamber for punishment.

Today some experts believe that, far from being a simple misprint, the error was actually an act of sabotage from rival printer Bonham Norton, who wished to politically embarrass Barker and claim his royal printing license.

The pair were stripped of their license and fined £300, and all copies of the book were ordered destroyed before anyone could get the wrong idea. Barker's reputation never recovered, and he spent the rest of his life in and out of the King's Bench Prison before he died there a ruined man in 1645.

Today, the British Library's ESTC (English Short Title Catalogue) lists just nine copies of the book known to have evaded the bonfire in 1632, with five having appeared at auction in the post-war period.

The copy on offer at Bonhams is expected to sell for £10,000-£15,000 ($15,450-$23,180) when it crosses the auction block on November 11, as part of the Fine Books, Maps and Manuscripts Sale in Knightsbridge, London.

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