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A Helpful Reference Tool

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

I thought that some of my more serious readers might enjoy knowing about a reference book that is indispensable to understanding the history of the King James Bible, its reprints and editions over the many years. Among my most prized books is a copy of Historical Catalogue of Printed Bibles 1525-1961 by A.S. Herbert. It is a revised and expanded version extracted from the T.H. Darlow and H.F. Moule 1903 Catalogue of bibles in all languages. It is a compilation of all English Bibles printed in those years.

Each edition of the bible gets its own entry with subsequent editions noted if they offer any changes. A typical entry will tell the following things; what year the bible was printed, the publisher, city of origin, its size measured in centimeters, and its type as to whether it was a folio, quarto, octavo, etc. Most importantly it gives a brief description and tells where copies can be seen. A number is assigned to each English Bible which is referred to as its Herbert number and its original number from the Darlow and Moule Catalogue is given if applicable.

Below is a typical entry labeled as Herbert # 1354 from the year 1791.

we can see that an Isaac Collins from Trenton, NJ printed this bible in Quarto (a size of page resulting from each piece of paper being divided into four sections) and is 247 x 177 centimeters. EBA stands for English Bible in America, another catalogue. 31 its the number in that catalogue. The fascinating tidbit that it is the first bible printed in New Jersey is followed by other identifying features. It tells a few other items that make it unique including errors. Importantly it tells us where we can look at a copy. In this case the American Antiquity Society in Worcester, Massachusetts has a copy. Most entries can be found in larger museums or libraries such as the case with Herbert # 1355 which is the next entry. Notice that it says, Copy in NNAB. That stands for New York, New York American Bible Society.

It was by use of this remarkable reference tool that I was able to identify landmark bibles from the last 400 years and then to locate them. The American Bible Society possesses the largest bible collection in North America and in some respects rivals the great Cambridge Library. When I have asked to see specific bibles and identified them by their Herbert number, the library has always courteously given me access and given me a desk to take notes and take pictures.

Most libraries that I have worked with have either courteously sent me pictures of the pages that I wanted to see or have charged me reasonable rates to send me pictures. I don't know if there is anyone else out there who would like to be able to see or study the bible through the centuries but if there is, perhaps this post will help you.

For my own part, most of the attacks that I have read on the King James Bible were proved to be outright wrong when I took the time to track down the bible in question. For example the oft repeated canard that Benjamin Blaney retranslated the King James Bible falls apart quickly with just a little research and a look at bibles before and after his editing.

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