Super rare 1631 "Wicked Bible" that encourages adultery found in New Zealand

May 10th

An extremely rare 1631 edition of the Bible known as the "Wicked Bible" or "Sinners' Bible" has turned up randomly in Christchurch, New Zealand. The edition received its moniker because of a typo in the Ten Commandments.

Canterbury University Professor Chris Jones told Newshub,

"The mistake is what is really striking, it says 'thou shalt commit adultery' in the 10 Commandments, which obviously should read 'thou shalt not commit adultery."

The original printers of the Bible, Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, were in a cutthroat printing business, and there are two theories about how the error came to be: either Barker's rival printer, Bonham Norton, purposely sabotaged the printing, or Barker and Lucas were cutting costs in copy editing when the error was made.

Either way, 1,000 copies of the Bible were sold before the error was discovered a year later, which just shows how little people were reading their Bibles even in the 17th century.

When the error became known, the printers were hauled before King Charles I to stand trial for the heresy. The pair were ordered to pay a £300 fine (about $45,000 today), and most of the texts were destroyed. Only about 20 copies have survived.

The book came from the estate of a UK expat who was a bookbinder and has lived in New Zealand since the 1950s. It was discovered by one of Professor Jones's former students when her family bought it at the man's estate auction. When the former student realized what it might be, she showed him in 2018, leading to a long process to confirm its authenticity and digitize it.

The copy is in relatively good condition, but it was missing the cover and had some water damage. On the other hand, it did have both red ink and black ink, and that makes it even rarer amongst the surviving copies.

The book was sent to Canterbury for restoration and preservation and will be held in a family trust for future generations to appreciate and laugh at Barker and Lucas's costly mistake.

There are days I am thankful for the internet's short attention span. I can't imagine having my typos laughed at for 400 years.


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