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“one of the most beautiful Bibles ever produced”

(BIBLE IN ENGLISH). The Holy Bible.

Oxford: John Baskett, 1717-1716

Folio (19 1⁄2 x 11 3⁄4 in., i.e. 29.8 x 49.5 cm). Title and calendar printed in red and black, ruled in red throughout. Engraved frontispiece, vignettes, engraved head-pieces and initials. Blank lower corner torn from title, some browning, a few tears, mostly marginal. A fine contemporary Oxford binding of gilt-tooled black goatskin, covers elaborately paneled with a central lozenge enclosing a star, large corner-pieces with three dropping leaves, a pyramid built up from small tools on each side, spine compartments tooled with sprays, wavy-lines, semi- circular tools, and large corner-pieces, marbled endpapers, gilt edges. Minimal restoration. A beautiful copy. One contemporary record suggests that the price for a well-bound copy such as this was a princely £4. 7. 6.

First edition of the enormous Baskett Bible, a “magnificent edition, printed in large type” (DMH) and “one of the most beautiful Bibles ever produced” (Campbell, Bible: The Story of the King James Version). “Only Baskerville’s Bible (Cambridge, 1763) is its equal among English Bibles for beauty of type, impression, and paper, and the richness of its decoration gives the Vinegar Bible a unique distinction” (Carter, The History of the Oxford University Press).

This is the first and greatest Bible printed by John Baskett, the leading publisher of English Bibles in the first half of the 18th century. From 1710 to 1743 Baskett had a monopoly on Bible publishing in England and Scotland. Baskett’s patron Arthur Charlett described the “proposed splendour” of this work:

“We are here printing a most Magnificent English Bible, some very few Copys will be in Vellum for a Present to the Queen & my Ld Treasurer. You know Dr Wallis and Dr Gregory pronounced Mr Dennison absolutely the best Corrector they ever met with. If this Work have not the Advantage of his nice Ey at least in giving the first Directions, and settling the Distances of Lines & Words and the great Art in a beautiful and Uniforme Division of Syllables, with several other minute Regulations, invisible to vulgar Eys, the Work will want of its proposed Splendour . . . Mr Denison says the Fount of letters, is the very best He ever saw, and you know his Ey examines all the Tayls sides & Topps of letters &c. To do justice to Mr Basket, He spares no Cost nor Pains” (quoted by Norton, Textual History of the King James Bible).

Despite its typographical beauty, the Baskett Bible included shocking typographical errors. The best-known of these gives the edition its most famous name, the Vinegar Bible, from the misprint “the parable of the vinegar” for “vineyard” in a heading in Luke XX. One buyer wrote to Charlett that the Bible bought for use at Winchester Cathedral was found to have errors in two consecutive chapters and added that “we have reason to fear that the whole edition is faulty.” He warned, “Fame has fastened on the errors: what might have been one of the glories of English printing is one of its curiosities.” Some called the enormous Bible a “Baskett-ful of errors.”

This handsome example of the Vinegar Bible is in a splendid period goatskin binding in unrestored condition.

Provenance: W. A. Foyle, with bookplate, sold Christie’s, 11 July 2000, lot 499.

Darlow, Moule, and Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525-1961 942 variant A. Darlow, Moule, and Herbert identify two distinct editions (A and B), observing that the engravings in the B edition often “represent allegorical subjects, and others are merely ornamental pieces, and do not, as in A, generally illustrate Bible incidents”