Wicked Bible
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Wicked Bible
(Revelation 22.18)
Page 323

"I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plagues described in this scroll." (Revelation 22.18)

Warning Against Change

John the scribeIn ancient days, since all books were hand-copied by scribes and everyone knew how easy it was for a scribe to make even a single mistake in the copying, it was a regular custom to insert at the end of a book a solemn warning against change. In the Middle Ages, if a manuscript which may have taken months to copy was found to have even one error, it was destroyed, such was the importance of adhering precisely to the original text.

Seventh Commandment

Wicked BibleIn the printing press era, what later came to be called the "Wicked Bible", the "Adulterers Bible" or the "Sinners' Bible" was published in 1631 AD. A thousand copies were printed by the Royal Printers in London. A year later, it was found to contain a mistake in verse fourteen of the Seventh Commandment omitting the "not" and reading, "thou shalt commit adultery." The Archbishop of Canterbury in response said, "I knew the time 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 best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned." A furious King Charles 1 ordered that every wicked Bible should be burned. Only a few escaped and there are estimated to be only nine copies of the "Wicked Bible" known to exist today. One of these was auctioned by Bonhams in 2015 and sold. As of 2008, a copy of the Wicked Bible was being offered for sale online, priced at $89,500. The displayed book was again priced at $99,500 in 2015. A single error like this resulted in what was then a huge fine of $600 or the equivalent of $60,000 in today's money on the publishers Robert Barker and Martin Lewis. Their licenses were taken away, the entire publishing run was withdrawn and every known copy burned. King Charles the First and the Archbishop of Canterbury made a joint statement condemning the wicked Bible omission. "His Majesties printers, at or about this time, had committed a scandalous mistake in our English Bibles, by leaving out the word "Not" in the Seventh Commandment. His Majesty being made acquainted with it by the Bishop of London, order was given for calling the Printers into the High-Commission, whereupon Evidence of the Fact, the whole Impression was called in, and the Printers deeply fined, as they justly merited. With some part of this Fine Laud caused a fair Greek Character to be provided, for publishing such Manuscripts as Time and Industry should make ready for the Public view." Apparently, the omission of "not" is not however a rare thing. For this reason, the Associated Press advises the press to use "innocent" instead of "not guilty" to prevent misunderstanding in court proceedings.

"Wicked Bible"
by Ron Meacock © 2018

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