Eagle-eyed viewers may have noticed that Chetham’s Library was credited on two recent documentaries marking the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible. BBC Religion borrowed the Library’s earliest copy of the King James Bible and filmed a series of rostrum shots in BBC studios. These were cut into the two programmes, presented by Melvyn Bragg and Adam Nicolson, to show how the King James Bible actually appears.
The Library’s copy of the King James Bible is a curious hybrid of the 1611 and 1613 editions. Like many early printed Bibles, parts of it are missing and other parts have been bound in the wrong order. The title page of the New Testament, for example, appears at the front of the whole Bible.
The book is bound in a contemporary full calf binding over thick wooden boards, complete with a series of brass bosses and clasps. Presumably it was intended to be used in a church but evidently soon fell into private ownership, as evidenced by two handwritten notes on the front flyleaves which read:
‘Direct for Mary Orritt to bee last att mis Overs att mis Hanks in Ould Boon Street in Saint James London’
‘Nouember the 15th 1718: in the morning about 3 oclock in the morning died Dorothy my deerly beloued wife shee liued desired and died lamented she liued in the fear of the Lord and I haue good reson to hope shee is in heven’.
Another interesting feature of the Chetham’s Bible, which weighs nearly 19lbs, is that manuscript waste from fragments of a 13th/14th century parchment of Corinthians in black, red and green ink has been used in the binding.