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Bible with sinful typo to be auctioned

By JAYA NARAIN Time of article published Oct 21, 2015

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It must go down as one of the worst misprints of all time - and may well have seen some God-fearing folk turn to a life of sin.

A rare 400-year-old bible is missing the word “not” in the seventh commandment, telling readers that “Thou shalt commit adultery”.

The 1631 edition, which has been put up for auction, is one of only nine remaining copies with the unfortunate error which led to the ruin of its publisher, who was fined and died in prison.

It is not known if the mistake in Exodus 20:14 was a genuine error by the royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas or if it was an act of sabotage by a rival.

Either way, there was uproar among conservative Anglicans when the blunder was discovered - a whole year after 1 000 copies came off the printing press.

King Charles I was furious when he found out and ordered all the bibles be withdrawn and burned, but somehow a few escaped being destroyed.

The edition has since become known as the Sinners’ Bible or the Wicked Bible.

The king stripped Barker and Lucas of their printing licence and fined them £300, the equivalent of £40 000 today.

George Abbot, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, was equally enraged and blamed the mistake on a lack of experience in the production of the book.

He wrote: “I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the beste, but now the paper is nought, the composers boyes, and the correctors unlearned.”

The misprint eventually led to Barker’s downfall. In 1635 he was imprisoned for racking up huge debts and spent the next ten years in and out of prison, eventually dying behind bars in 1645. His bible is much sought after by collectors today, and this copy is tipped to fetch £15 000 when it goes under the hammer at Bonhams in London on November 11.

Simon Roberts of Bonhams said: “It was a horrific mistake to have made. It remains a lesson to us all to make sure we proof read everything we write.”

This edition of the bible is not the only one to contain unfortunate howlers. Other examples include:

* “Blessed are the placemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (Matthew 5:9, second edition of the Geneva Bible, 1562. Should be “peacemakers”.)

* “Printers have persecuted me without a cause.” (Psalm 119:161, King James Version, 1612. Should be “Princes”.)

* “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit the kingdom of God?” (I Corinthians 6:9, King James Version, 1653. Should be “shall not inherit”.)

* “Go and sin on more.” (John 8:11, King James Version, 1716. Should be “Go and sin no more”.)

* “Let the children first be killed.” (Mark 7:27, King James Version, 1795. Should be: “Let the children first be filled”)

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