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Geneva “Breeches” Bible, Christopher Barker Black Letter, 1582

We sold this item at auction for $1,800
 in June 2020.

This 16th century Geneva Bible was published in 1582 by Christopher Barker. Nicknamed the “Breeches” Bible, the Geneva edition is so named due to the use of the word “breeches” printed in Genesis 3:7 in a verse relating to Adam and Eve’s sewing of the fig leaves in the Garden of Eden:

“Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sowed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches.”

Whereas the traditional King James Version (KJV) of this verse (published in 1611) is translated to:

“And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.”

In the 16th century, English Puritans escaped to Geneva, Switzerland and away from the religious persecutions of Queen Mary. While in exile, the Puritans were desirous of having an annotated Bible for the use of their families. An edition was published in 1557 which offered a number of ground-breaking study aids in the way of marginal annotations, illustrations, maps, tables and commentary. Additionally, it was printed using Roman type rather than “Black Letter”.

In 1620, when the Pilgrims sailed to North America aboard the Mayflower, it was the Geneva Bible they carried with them across the dangerous sea voyage and into the new world.

Christopher Barker (1529-1599) was printer to Queen Elizabeth I (which gave him the exclusive patents to print Bibles in England) and was famous for having printed many editions of Elizabethan-era Bibles – most notably the Geneva Bible and the Bishops’ Bible.

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