First US New Testament Bible to be Auctioned

A copy of the first English-language New Testament to be printed in the U.S. will be auctioned off later this month in London.

Only two other copies of the first edition are known to exist – one held by the New York Public Library and the other by the Philadelphia Historical Society.

Bloomsbury Auctions says the volume is expected to sell for at least 100,000 pounds, or $160,000, at the Nov. 29 sale.

The identity of the seller has not been disclosed.

A Scotsman who settled in Philadelphia, Robert Aitken, published the edition in 1777 after British publishers quit supplying bibles to the American colonies – following the Declaration of Independence.

Aitken published subsequent editions of the bible, but officials at Bloomsbury Auctions say this is definitively the first and most important edition.

Aitken's New Testament included front matter that declared the edition "newly translated out of the original Greek; and with the former translations diligently compared and revised. Appointed to be read in churches."

Though it is unclear how much manipulation took place, experts at the auction house say Aitken copied much of the King James' edition but eliminated any reference to king. It is unclear whether Aitken simply deleted the King James references or wrote new material for the edition.

The edition was not however the first bible printed and published in the U.S.

That title belongs to an Algonquin-language New Testament translation exacted by English Puritan clergyman John Eliot in 1661. Eliot published the full bible two years later

In 1742, German immigrant Christopher Saur published a German-language New Testament in Philadelphia.

A King James Bible that had been brought to the moon by U.S. astronauts was auctioned off in September. It was sold with one of Neil Armstrong's astronaut gloves.

Today, over 60 million Bibles are printed every year.