Karavansara

East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

The Wicked Bible and other misprints

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Ah, more pulp history!
I love those weird little implausible bits of historical fact that, should I slip them in a story would be criticised as “implausible”.
Consider, if you will, the work of Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, printers to the Crown in the year of our lord 1631, that were given the simple task of reprinting the King James bible.

Now everything would have been fine had they not somehow caused some animosity in one of their employees who, when the time came to print the Bible, removed a single word, from Exodus 24:14, so that the list of the Ten Commandments now included an invitation, no, more, an injunction to commit adultery:

Thou shalt commit adultery

WickedbibleIt was no joke, actually. Barker & Martin were brought to judgement in the Star Chamber, the English court of law which sat at the royal Palace of Westminster, established to ensure the fair enforcement of laws against people so powerful that ordinary courts would likely hesitate to convict them of their crimes.
Because there was a time in which publishers were powerful.
Barker & Lucas were fined for 300 pounds (something like 65.000 bucks of today), and lost their license as printers.

King Charles the first ordered all copies of the “Wicked Bible” to be seized and burned, and the Archbishop of Canterbury observed

I knew the time when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.

And you won’t believe it, but I heard the same complaint no longer that one week ago, if applied to general fiction and not the Bible.
Which might sort of remind us of another famous Biblical misprint from the 17th century, the so-called “Printers Bible”, from 1612, in some copies of which Psalm 119:161 reads “Printers have persecuted me without a cause” rather than “Princes have persecuted me…”

Ten or, according to other sources, eleven copies of the Wicked Bible survived, and now fetch prices in the order of the 100.000 pounds or more.

And it turns out there is quite a list of Biblical typos, most of which are actually hilarious.
My favourite certainly is the “Affinity Bible”, from 1927, containings a table of family affinities that includes the line “A man may not marry his grandmother’s wife.”

Which is certainly a good thing, as it would have caused a lot of awkward social situations.

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Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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