Bible returning to Nova Scotia after 236 years

Vinegar Bible’s mistakes make it more valuable

Richard Dooley, Canwest News Service

Published: Sunday, May 18, 2008

A rare 18th century Bible, known as the Vinegar Bible, is coming back to Lunenburg, N.S., after an absence of nearly 240 years.

This edition of the Bible, printed in 1717 by John Baskett, printer to King George III, is thought to be one of only seven of its print run remaining in the world. It’s considered valuable by book dealers and historians because of its conspicuous errors, one of which gives it its name.

It refers to the “parable of the vineyard” in the Gospel of St. Luke as the “parable of the vinegar,” hence its nickname. Baskett’s Bibles are often referred to as “a basketful of errors” because of the mistakes made in the handset type.

The Lunenburg Vinegar Bible once belonged to Rev. Robert Vincent, the town’s original schoolmaster and the second Anglican missionary assigned to the fishing town’s fledgling

St. John’s Church. Vincent died young, leaving a poverty-stricken widow who sold the Bible to the governor of Nova Scotia, Michael Francklin, in 1766. Francklin brought the book back to England in 1772, where it’s presumed to have remained in his family collection.

But little is known about the volume until it turned up at Cambridge University about 20 years ago.

It is known that Francklin kept notes in the back of the Bible, including births and deaths of family members and where they are buried in Halifax. Historians hope that further study could reveal some clues about the early days of the colony.

“It’s tremendously exciting to get this Bible returned to us,” says historian and St. John’s Anglican Church parishioner George Munroe.

Munroe said the Lunenburg Vinegar Bible is as significant to the historic fishing village southwest of Halifax as the Gutenberg Bibles are to the world of publishing.

Marie Elwood, former head curator of the Nova Scotia Museum, negotiated the return of the Bible to Lunenburg after MLA Michael Baker said the province would pay $5,000 for the book. The library at Cambridge University agreed to the bargain-basement price — similar books fetch up to $400,000.

The Holy Bible, Containing the Old Testament and the New: Newly Translated out of the Original Tongues. Oxford: Printed by John Baskett, 1717.

This magnificent 1717 Bible was produced in the printing house of John Baskett, identified on the title page as “printer to the King’s most Excellent Majesty,” and is one of fewer than two dozen copies of this rare and famous edition in the United States. The book’s numerous and exquisite engravings and large, elegant type make it one of the finest examples of early-eighteenth-century English printing. Unfortunately, the book’s typesetters were not so skilled, or as meticulous, as were its engravers and printers. The text includes so many errors that the volume has sometimes been referred to as the “Baskett-full of Errors.” The edition is even more familiarly known as “the Vinegar Bible,” from the most famous of its several typesetting errors. At the top of the page containing the twentieth chapter of the Book of Luke, with its parable of the vineyard, the typesetter inadvertently set the page-head to read “The parable of the vinegar.”





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