On Wednesday, October 28, 2015, staff of the Special Collections and University Archives at Drew University discovered a previously unrecorded copy of The Holy Bible: Conteyning the Old Testament and the New, from 1611, more commonly known as the King James Bible. Through consultation with other members of the library and with bibliographical works about the Bible, staff was able to determine that the Bible in their hands was in fact a first edition, first issue King James Bible. The first issue is known as the “He Bible,” due to a typo in the book of Ruth. The King James Bible represents a pivotal point in the history of religious expression, the history of printing, and the development of the English language.
Evidence gathered from Library records in University Archives suggest that the University (then Drew Theological Seminary) acquired the book in the 1880s. It was displayed among other Bible treasures in 1935. Kept securely in the Rose Memorial Library vault, it was closely examined by Julia E. Baker in 1977, Drew’s first (and only) rare book librarian, who confirmed that although many pages are lacking, all remaining elements evidenced a first edition first printing.
Though the title page is missing from Drew’s copy, the staff was able to authenticate the book due to the extensive descriptive bibliography available on other copies. The first edition, first issue of the text has errors that were then corrected in the second issue (or books printed later within the same edition) that allowed staff to identify the Bible. Staff matched over 35 errors, called points, to authenticate the book. Further investigation into provenance and physical bibliography continues.
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