Wednesday - 22 October 2014

Police appeal after thieves take church’s early Bible

09 July 2014Written by ATG Reporter

Book dealers have been urged to be on the lookout after a second edition of the King James Bible from 1614 was stolen from a Berkshire church.

Housed in a locked display cabinet at St Mary's in London Road, Datchet, it was probably taken in mid June, but the theft was only discovered on Sunday, June 22. It seems that a similar-sized hymn book had been put in its place.

The church has a very close link to the printer of that edition: Robert Barker (1570-1645). He was from Datchet and was actually baptised at St Mary's and went on to be a regular worshipper.

Barker was the Queen's/King's Printer from 1593 and that position gave him the right to print the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer in English. Barker continued as King's Printer even after being committed to prison for debt in 1635 (his financial troubles were partly due to costs incurred through the printing of the first authorised version of the Bible). He died in jail.

In 1604, King James I had authorised the start of a new translation of the Bible into English. It was finished in 1611, just 85 years after the first translation of the New Testament into English appeared (Tyndale, 1526). This authorised version soon became the standard for English-speaking Protestants.

In 2011 St Mary's celebrated the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible and their second edition was joined by a 1611 first from St George's Chapel in Windsor. Datchet's Barker Bridge House Trust, a charity which helps to look after the church among other things, is thought to have been established by Barker in 1644, the year before he died in the debtor's prison, but its origins go back further.

Skinner of Boston sold a Robert Barker Bible from 1611/13 for $2900 on June 1 last year (then about £1960), while Halls of Shrewsbury sold one with a New Testament title dated 1613 for £1100 on May 22 that same year.

In November 2012, Halls sold a 1614 Barker Bible for £1050, and in February that year a 1613-dated example made £1200 at Tennants of Leyburn, North Yorkshire.

Anyone with information about the theft should call the police on 101.

 

 

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top