Breeches Bible

The Geneva or ‘Breeches’ Bible, £20,000 at Bloomfield Auctions.

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However, the example offered by Bloomfield Auctions in east Belfast on January 10 came with an alluring provenance.

The book is thought to have travelled from Devon with Elizabeth Pole (1588-1654) to the Plymouth Colony in 1633.

Pole, the daughter of Sir William Pole (1561-1635) of Shute House, sailed on the Speedwell ‘pilgrim’ boat with two friends, 14 servants and 20 tons of salt.

Town founder

As a wealthy spinster who acquired a large tract of land in Massachusetts, she played a key role in the foundation of the town of Taunton in 1638.

She is known as the first woman to have founded a town in the Americas.

Auctioneer Karl Bennett described the Elizabeth Pole Bible as “a piece of world history – carried by an inspirational woman from her home in rural Devon to the New World”.

Returned to England after Pole died, the Bible remained in the possession of the Pole-Carew family until the mid-20th century when it was bought by a collector from Northern Ireland.

Estimated at up to £10,000, it took bids from both sides of the Atlantic before selling at £20,000 (plus 15% buyer’s premium).

Mass production

The ‘Breeches’ Bible, first issued in 1576, was the first mechanically printed, massproduced Bible available to the public.

It takes its name from the use of the word in the translation of Genesis 3:7. “Then the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches.”

The preferred Bible of Anglican and Puritan Protestants during the Elizabethan age, in 1620 it was this translation rather than the 1611 King James version that was taken to America by the Puritans aboard the Mayflower.