Photos of 16th century Bibles

Last week on my annual jaunt with Harvard biology summer schools students looking at Darwin’s activities in Shropshire and Wales, we visited the library at Shrewsbury School

As well as a first edition of the Origin of Species


they also had a first edition of the 1600 King James/authorised Bible.



The cover is a bit worn but not bad for 405 years.



Here is Genesis 1 in gothic scropt



and a bit of illustrated chronology


The contents also list the Apocrypha, which was generally included at that time.


There was also an early copy of William Morgans Welsh Bible

Must last ancient bible is a another Jacobean gem. This time it is the personal copy of King James II, which somehow ended up in Shrewsbury.



The embossing is superb.


and included the royal insignia


gone is the gothic script but it includes a form of “f” for “s” which only went out in about 1820*. Every page was adorned with red lines, which were not printed but hand-drawn.

I presume King James left these behind when he relinquished the throne


I would not like to guess how much these books are worth today or what they cost when printed. Suffice to say early bibles of 1450 cost the equivalent of £250,000 or so.


And finally a 15th century printed book showing the fall of Adam and Eve. With an unusual snake up a tree.

P.S. The problem of “f” as “s”. I have a copy of John Wesley’s Primitive Physic  and section 49 on “A consumption” makes for odd reading as para 191 reads;

191. In the last stage, fuck a healthy woman daily. This cured my father.

However nowhere in the book is “f” used as “s”.  This is an unusual aspect of orthography and printing.


I am very grateful to the librarian of Shrewsbury School showing us these and allowing me to share these on my blog.



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