Acridity Instead of Accuracy: the Notorious Vinegar Bible, Elaborately Gilt In Contemporary Bindings and with Fore-Edge Paintings, the Wardington Copy


(Oxford: John Baskett, Clarendon Press, 1717, 1716 [New Testament]). 516 x 310 mm. (20 3/8 x 12 3/8"). Two volumes.

STATELY NEAR-CONTEMPORARY BLACK MOROCCO, covers with gilt frame built up from a dog-tooth roll and various tools including crossed scepters, crowns, trophy tools, circles, suns, and stars, spines gilt in compartments, fleuron centerpieces formed by crown and trophy tools enclosed by a lozenge of small dot and star tools, flourished volute cornerpieces, gilt-rolled turn-ins, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. EACH VOLUME WITH A FORE-EDGE PAINTING DEPICTING THE ARMS OF CROWE IMPALING THOSE OF STRODE with flowers and butterflies on either side (each volume with 20th century repairs at bottom of joints and lower corners and just perhaps--but only perhaps--at other places along the joints). Additional engraved general title by Du-Bose depicting Moses writing the first words of Genesis, engraved historiated initials at the beginning of each book, large engraved vignettes on title pages, and 60 large (taking up a quarter-page) engraved vignettes of biblical scenes as head- or tailpieces. Text in double columns, ruled in red throughout. With "A Brief Concordance or Table to the Bible" (London: D. Leach for R. Ware, 1726) inlaid to size and bound at the end of volume II. Front pastedowns with engraved armorial bookplate of 18th century owner John Arden (d. 1787), title page of volume I and first page of volume II (opening of the book of Isaiah) with his ink signature at head; front flyleaf of volume II with ink inscription of J. Allen, Trin[ity] Coll[ege] Camb[ridge], with later note before and after signature that this book was "The gift of . . . to John Arden of Harden, Cheshire"; rear pastedowns with bookplate of Lord Wardington. Herbert 942A. ◆First volume with small tear at head of front joint and with thin six-inch crack at tail of rear joint, volume II with similar crack to rear joint, other minor signs of wear to the leather, but very handsome volumes with bright gilt and nothing approaching a significant condition issue externally. Text with three short tears of no consequence, both volumes with occasional spotting and browning (noticeable, without being severe, on last leaf of volume I and several gatherings of volume II), otherwise only trivial defects internally, with clean and fresh leaves throughout. An excellent set with distinguished provenance and featuring the uncommonly seen fore-edge paintings.

This is a handsomely bound copy of the Baskett edition of the King James Bible, one of the most celebrated English Bibles printed after 1611, known both for its beauty and for a rather endearing mistake. Herbert justifiably calls this "a magnificent edition," but makes it clear that the plates and typographic beauty of the edition are more impressive than its textual accuracy. Because of the book's many misprints, the printer was said to have produced a "Baskett-ful of Errors," and the most famous of these gives the edition its nickname: in the headline above Luke 20, instead of "The parable of the vineyard," the typesetters mistakenly produced "The parable of the vinegar." Accuracy aside, the most special aspect of the book's beauty resides in the 60 very large and memorably attractive engraved headpieces and tailpieces featuring biblical scenes. Perhaps not until the massive Macklin Bible of 1800-16 does one see decoration of this sort to be any better in works of English Scripture. John Baskett purchased a royal patent to print Bibles from the executors of Thomas Newcomb and Henry Hills, and his name began appearing with theirs on Bibles in 1710. Baskett was jealous of his privilege, and won a suit against Scottish printer James Watson, who had dared to sell his Bibles in England. (He did not win a similar suit against the University of Cambridge.) Baskett died in 1742, and the business was at first carried on by his sons Thomas and Robert. After 1744, however, only the name of Thomas appears; he continued printing Bibles until 1769. This set was very handsomely bound and decorated with heraldic fore-edge paintings that likely celebrate a marriage between the Crowe and Strode families of England. The books were later in the remarkable collection begun by the British banker John William Beaumont Pease, 1st Baron Wardington (1869-1950), and continued by his son Christopher Henry ("Bic") Beaumont Pease, 2nd Lord Wardington (1924-2005). Sotheby’s disposed of the collections in four auctions held in 2005-06 that brought in £17,309,862 ($31,698,481). This was a record for any related group of book sales in London.

Price: $19,500.00