Antique Bible Boxes
Antique Bible Boxes are small containers, typically made of wood, used to store one or more Bibles.
History and description
Bible boxes were very popular during the seventeenth century and were produced in a variety of styles and materials, such as ceramic, wood and even metal. The more refined examples were decorated with ornate carvings and etchings, which depicted Biblical scenes.
Traditionally, these boxes were used to transport Bibles across the United States in the seventeenth century. At the time, Bibles were very rare and treasured religious possessions and so boxes were constructed from thick planks of hardwood to protect the Bibles. Over time, Bible boxes grew in size and would later take the shape of small reading desks, with slanted surfaces specifically designed to hold Bibles for reading.
Guide for collectors of Antique Bible Boxes
Most antique Bible boxes are examples that were made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. While it is uncommon to find Bible boxes more than two-hundred and fifty years old at specialist furniture and antique dealers, bible boxes from the seventeenth century are occasionally sold at international auction houses and prices tend to range from £100 to over £1,000.
There is a highly competitive market for antique ecclesiastical products. Bible boxes form a large part of this collectible market and the value of these items’ depends on a number of factors. Antique Bible boxes that are adorned with artwork and intricate etchings are more valuable and are therefore more desirable to collectors. Additionally, the material can also add a considerable amount to both the items’ value and collectability. Typically, Bible boxes made of walnut and mahogany achieve the highest prices. Arguably the most sought after Bible boxes are examples that contain their original writing implements, such as writing paper, inkpot and quills. However, instances of these sold at auction are extremely rare.
There are numerous sources available online that offer valuable information for collectors of antique Bible boxes, such as methods of identification, history and pricing. A few good examples include Antique-atlas.com, Antique-marks.com and Sellingantiques.co.uk.
Instances of antique Bible boxes are relatively uncommon on online bidding sites, such as eBay and Yahoo, and prices do tend to vary. For example, on eBay in January 2012, a small cedar bible-sized box sold for £21.52 and a Burl wood desk stand sold for £152.
Collectors should proceed with caution when purchasing antique Bible boxes, particularly in the United States, as the term is often used incorrectly to designate antique portable desks or small wooden boxes that have no biblical connection.
Notable auction sales of Antique Bible Boxes
In January 1994 at Christie’s in New York, a William and Mary walnut Bible box realised a price of $4,370.
In January 1998, a seventeenth century oak Bible box realised a price of £1,380 through Christie’s, London.
In October 2006 at Sotheby’s, Amsterdam, a Dutch colonial brass mounted padouk and teak wooden Bible box and a small chest, made in the seventeenth century, sold for €3,840.
In October 2010, an eighteenth century oak Bible box sold for £240 through Bonhams, Oxford.
In February 2008, a late seventeenth century Charles II oak Bible box was sold through Christie’s, New York, for a realised price of $1,000.