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Rare First Edition King James Bible Goes on Display at Stevenson University

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By Stoyan Zaimov, Christian Post Reporter
April 9, 2012|5:17 pm

A rare first edition 1611 King James Bible, one of the only 175 in the world, has been found and is now taking center stage at a collection of more than 300 other bibles at Stevenson University, Maryland.

The 17th century King James Bible edition, which bares the printer's official dedication to King James, was discovered a year ago at a Baltimore office of the Bible Society, explained Joseph McGraw, a history professor at Stevenson.

"This is part of what public history is all about," McGraw shared. "Taking material that can be very dry and bringing it to life. One of the easiest ways to do that is with historical artifacts. They're almost like time machines."

The collection at the school's library is said to be a tool for students to learn things such as "historical methods of printing, and the ways churches and laypeople have used the books throughout the last 500 years," the Baltimore Sun reported.

The first edition bible may have been lost and lay forgotten for years because the Bible Society lacked the proper space to show off its entire antique biblical artifact collections from around the world. The King James Bible was left hidden away in the director's office and remained untouched for years.

It is not certain when the first edition copy was first brought to Baltimore, but mentions of the artifact can be found in a 1931 article in the Baltimore Sun.

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Now that the rare Bible edition has re-emerged, Stevenson University will be allowed to keep it on display, though the Bible Society will still retain rights over the Holy book.

David Moyer, the executive director of the Bible Society, who found the lost bible when examining the society's collection last summer, shared that one of the signs that gives the first edition copy away is that a passage refers to Ruth with the pronoun "he" rather than "she" – a mistake which was corrected in later editions.

"We realized that the collection needed a better-suited home for its stature," Moyer said about the decision to allow the university to display the Bible at its library collection. According to the Baltimore Sun, such first edition King James Bibles go for as much as six-figure sums in the rare occasions they are up for sale. The copy belonging to the Bible Society, however, may not be worth quite as much, since parts of it were repaired and pages were replaced over the centuries.

"But the very things that would drive down the value are the things I love from a historical standpoint," remarked Glenn Johnston, Stevenson's chief archivist. "The value to me is that it's not pristine. I can see how it was used."

Unique features about the copy also include the spelling of some words with an extra "e" at the end - the New Testament for example is written as the "Newe Testament." Also, the famous passage found in 1 Corinthians 13, which is often used in weddings, uses the word "charity" instead of "love."

The NIV Bible expresses 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 as: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

 

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