A “wicked” bible, which predates the hippy concept of “free love” by a good 400 years and seemingly endorses the sleazy business of wife-swapping, doesn’t just make it okay to covet your neighbour’s partner, it commands you to have sex with them as well.
The “Sinner’s Bible,” as it is sometimes known in the murky and underground world of bibliophilia, has long been sought after by those with an overriding passion for rare books.
Printed in 1631, there are only 10 remaining copies of this extremely rare “unholy” book, which landed its printers in hot water with the monarch of the time, Charles I, who nearly lost his head over the sacrilege and blasphemy contained within the pages of the Sinner’s Bible.
The ancient tome that orders people to commit adultery does so not because of some satanic conspiracy or evil intent to corrupt the god-fearing flock and encourage them to participate in a sordid orgy of unhinged depravity.
The real reason the Sinner’s Bible fell from grace was because of a common and all too human typo.
When printing the Seventh commandment, “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery,” some bright spark who didn’t have his mind fully on the task at hand missed out the “Not,” so it became “Thou Shalt Commit Adultery.” Even though it was apparently still not okay to “steal” or “kill,” getting a bit fruity outside of the martial bed was just hunky dory according to the sinner’s Bible. The rest, as they say, is history.
Only trouble is in the hardcore religious climate of 1631, such mistakes could easily cost you your life, and royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, who produced the scandalous text, were not only fined £300 (£44,600 in today’s money), but they were summoned to the Star Chamber on order of the King and had their printing licence removed.
Strangely enough, over 1,000 copies of the bible were circulated throughout Britain, and an entire year passed before the mistake was initially spotted. Which just goes to show how diligently folks studied the bible in the 17th century.
Once the terrible typo was identified, the Guardian reports that the entire print run of the offending text was collected and routinely burnt. However, as always is the case with such items, a handful survived and were passed through the centuries for us modern types to laugh at and spend huge amounts of money on.
A copy of the Sinners Bible is due to go under the hammer at Bonhams Auction House next month, where it is expected to fetch between £10,000 to £15,000.
For the printers, the Sinner’s Bible was an expensive mistake to make and obviously god’s forgiveness couldn’t be extended to such miserable wretches.
Yet Bonhams specialist Simon Roberts believes that the misprint was not an error but an act of sabotage by Barker’s rival printer Bonham Norton to “politically embarrass” him.
“In a sense the jury is still out on why the misprint happened. Originally it was thought that it was just a mistake which didn’t get noticed, which to me seems slightly unlikely – if you’re going to check 10 things, then you’d think you would check that page.
“Certainly the controversy added to Barker’s decline in fortunes and reputation, and he was in and out of the King’s Bench Prison before dying there in 1645.”
Although not speaking in tongues, but in the curious language of the time, the Mirror reports that the Archbishop of Canterbury George Abbot had a rather lot to say about the unfortunate incident.
“I knew the tyme [sic] 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.”
It appears, in this case, the old adage “Print and be damned” rings resoundingly true.
[Photo By Eric Thayer/Getty Images]