BUYER BEWARE King James' Bible 1st Edition

Did you know that there are FIVE King James pulpit sized Bibles that at first glance all look the same? They were published by Robert Barker, the King's printer, to read page for page the same. This was a usual practice of Robert's father, Christopher, who was the Royal printer in the 16th century. He often printed the same Bible format over and over again for years, the only intended difference being the date on the title pages. And it was the same practice of even earlier printers like Edward Whitechurch and Richard Grafton and the seven Great Bibles between 1539-1541. We have noticed over the years some eBay sellers and some antiquarian Bible dealers on the internet offering later and less valuable edition leaves and Bibles as the original "first printing" 1611 KJV Bible leaves. 
For the curious here are the facts!!!
The publication/printing dates of most Bibles are to be found on their respective title pages. This is true of the editions of the King James Bibles. There are generally two title pages; a General title page at the beginning of the Bible with the second title page at the beginning of the New Testament. Sometimes a date can also be found at the end of a Bible in what is called the colophon. On occasion a Bible might have on it's general title page one date and on the New Testament title page another date. The explanation for this anomaly is that the printing of that edition began in one year and was completed in another year.
[The Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible by A. S. Herbert, M.A., B.D., 1968, is the standard reference work for collectors of antiquarian English Bibles. Often when it is cited it is referred to as Herbert's Catalogue or abbreviated by the letter 'H' followed by the number assigned to a particular edition i.e. Herbert 309 or H309 as is the case with the first edition 1611 King James Bible.]
Here are the dates and the corresponding Herbert Catalogue numbers of the first five King James folio Bibles that at first glance look exactly the same but are not.
1. 1611 - H309 - 'he' Bible
2. 1613/1611 - H319 - 'she' Bible - The first number is the date on the general title page and the second number is the date on the New Testament title page.
3. 1617 - H353
4. 1634 - H487
5. 1640/1639 - H543 - The first number is the date on the general title page and the second number is the date on the New Testament title page.
As previously stated, the above listed folio Bibles at first glance look exactly the same but upon close examination they all differ in thousands of ways. In reality each and every leaf with the same text from these five Bibles have many minor, almost undetectable differences between them. They all have different printing dates with 59 lines to a page. The first two issues, 1611 and 1613/11, are affectionately referred to as the 'he' (H309) and 'she' (H319) Bibles because of their respective reading of Ruth 3:15. The first issue (H309) reads "he went into the citie" and the second issue (H319) reads "she went into the citie". Although it is considered by bibliographers that the 'he' Bible was printed first it is the 'she' Bible reading that is retained in subsequent KJV Bibles. Go look at your modern KJV Bible and see for yourself.
The two issues are distinct and vary in hundreds perhaps even thousands of places mostly due to spelling, punctuation and typesetting differences. Almost all the Bibles that have the date 1611 [H309] on both title pages contain the same set of leaves each time you examine one of them. The first edition, first issue [H309] was printed entirely in the year 1611 and the printing of the second issue [H319] straddles three years, 1611-1613.
Buyer beware when purchasing a KJV folio Bible leaf.
There are printing differences that distinguish all five of the first folio editions one from the other. They were not, as claimed by one dealer, to have all been printed in the year 1611 and then stored in the "royal warehouse" waiting for their thier respective title pages to be added some years later. They are not all "first printings" as claimed, advertised and sold as such! They are not the same and are certainly not the same in value. As a rule of thumb the cost of a 1611 [H309] first edition, first issue leaf is of equal value to all the other four editions [H319, H353, H487, H543] combined.


Genesis 11:10b-13:14a


Look closely at the leaves pictured above. We have circled some of the differences between the five similar editions. Study them for a minute and yu will soon see the differences. See if you can find some more.


  • 611 The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament, and the New:Newly Translated out of the Originall tongues: & with the former Translations diligently compared and reuised, by his Maiesties speciall Cōmandement. Appointed to be read in Churches. Imprinted at London by Robert Barker, Printer to the Kings most Excellent Maiestie. Anno Dom. 1611.


    • 309. (240) BH* BM Bod ULC NLS TCD: CSmH ICN MH NN NNAB

    f° 357 x 225 B.L.


    The editio princepsof King James’ Bible, commonly known as the ‘Authorised` version.


    The idea of this new translation was first mooted by John Rainolds or Reynolds (1549-1607), President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, the Puritan leader at the Hampton Court Conference, Jan. 1604. The King took up the proposal warmly, and its achievement was due to his royal interest and influence. The preliminary work was accomplished in about four years. [We need not construe literally the twise seuen times seuentie two dayes and more—roughly two years and nine months—of the preface to the Bible.] The translators, who numbered about fifty, were divided into six companies, each company being responsible for a certain section of the Scriptures. Two companies met at Westminster, two at Cambridge, and two at Oxford; and at these centres the directors of the work were Lancelot Andrewes (1555–1626), then Dean of Westminster, Edward Lively (1545?–1605), Regius Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge, and John Harding, Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford (1591-8 and 1604-10). The results of their several labours were subjected to mutual criticism, and then underwent nine months’ final revision by a representative committee of six members, sitting in London. The editors who passed the book through the press were Miles Smith, afterwards Bishop of Gloucester (d. 1624), and Thomas Bilson (1547–1616), Bishop of Winchester. The latter, perhaps, composed the headings to the chapters. To the former is ascribed the noble preface entitled The Translators to the Reader.


    The translators were directed to take the rendering of the Bishops’ Bible as their basis, and were advised also to consult the following versions: Tyndale’s, Matthew’s, Coverdale’s, Whitchurch’s (i.e. the Great Bible), and the Geneva. The last exerted very considerable influence on their work; and next to the Rheims New Testament—though not mentioned—contributed appreciably to the changes introduced (see No 177). (The Douay Old Testament appeared too late to be used.) It is recognised that this Bible, like all the great English versions from 1537 down to 1885, was built on the sure foundations laid for all time by Tyndale and Coverdale. Besides the Hebrew and Greek originals, reference was made to Tremellius and Junius, Beza, and earlier Latin versions, including Plantin’s Polyglot edition edited by Benedictus Arias Montanus, and also to the vernacular translations of Spain, France, and Italy. According to Westcott (p. 279), the revision of the New Testament was a simpler work than that of the Old, and may be generally described as a careful correction of the Bishops’ version by the Greek text, with the aid of Beza’s, the Geneva, and the Rheims versions.

    According to A. W. Pollard, the versions of the six companies are usually supposed to have begun (though doubtless there were preliminary meetings) in 1607, the years 1605, 1606 being thus allotted to private research, 1607-9 to the work of the boards, part of 1610 to that of the twelve revisers at Stationers’ Hall, and the rest of 1610 and part of 1611 to printing. From the scanty data which survive it appears that most of the translators gave their services gratuitously, although the final committee received an allowance while at work in London, and some were perhaps rewarded, as the King had originally suggested, by preferment. The completed work was published by Robert Barker, the King’s printer. (See below.)

    No evidence exists that King James’ version received any definite ecclesiastical or legislative sanction. (A. W. Pollard deals fully with this point in Records, pp. 58-60.) But it won its way by sheer merit, until gradually it displaced even the Geneva Bible in popular affection, and established itself as the sole recognised version of the Scriptures in English. Under the Commonwealth some steps were taken in 1653, and again in 1657, towards a fresh translation, but without result (cf. Westcott, History, p. 124). From about the middle of the seventeenth century on to the appearance of the Revised Bible of 1881-5, King James’ version reigned without a rival.

    Cardwell (Documentary Annals, vol. ii, pp. 84-8 and 140-6) prints three important documents dealing with the genesis of this version. For other details see Anthony Walker’s Life of John Bois(1561-1644), one of the translators, in Harl. MSS. 7053, cited by Arber (Transcript, vol. iv, pp. 11-12), and Anderson (vol. ii, p. 381); and compare Peck’s DesiderataCuriosa, 1779, pp. 325-342.

    Walker states that during the final revision Bois and Downes, the Cambridge representatives, with their ‘four fellow labourers,’ ‘went daily to Stationers’ Hall, and in three quarters of a year fulfilled their task. All which time they received daily 30sh. each of them by the week from the Company of Stationers, though before they had nothing.’

    A reference to the original manuscript of this version occurs in the anonymous and undated tract (printed about June 1660), entitled The London Printers Lamentacon, or, the Press opprest, and ouerprest,which contains a vehement attack on the three Republican printers, Newcomb, Field, and Hills. The following passage is cited from Arber’s Transcript, vol. iii, pp. 27-8: ‘. . . But we cannot as yet pass ouer his Maiesties good friends, Hills and Feild (take themconiunctim ordivisim:) . . . Have they not invaded and still do intrude upon his Maiesties Royall Priviledge, Prærogatiue and Præeminence; And by the pusillanimous Cowardize and insignificant Compact of Master Christopher Barker, and another of his name, and (not without probable suspicion,) by the consent and connivance of Master John Bill (though he was artificially defeated in his expectations of profit;) Have they not obtained, (and now keep in their actuall possession) the Manuscript Copy of the last Translation of the holy Biblein English (attested with the hands of the Venerable and learned Translators in King Jameshis time) ever since 6 March 1655. And thereupon by colour of an unlawfull and enforced entrance in the Stationers Registry, printed and published ever since for the most part in severall Editions of Bibles(consisting of great numbers) such egregious Blasphemies and damnable Errata’s, as have corrupted the pure Fountain, and rendred Gods holy Word contemptible to multitudes of the people at home, and a Ludibriumto all the Adversaries of our Religion.’ (Cf. W. Kilburne’s tract, Dangerous Errors. . . , 1659, ad fin.)

    This manuscript perhaps perished in the Great Fire of 1666. Two more allusions to the same manuscript are quoted by H. R Plomer in a paper entitled ‘The King’s Printing House under the Stuarts’ (Library, new series, vol. 2, 1901, pp. 353-375): (1) during a quarrel about the copyright ‘a certain William Ball in a pamphlet of 1651 declared that the sole right of printing of the Bible was Matthew Barker’s, in regard that his father [R. Barker] paid for the amended or corrected translation £3,500 "by reason whereof the translated copy did of right belong to him" ’; (2) another quarrel between Roger Norton and C. Barker the third concerned ‘. . . the moiety of a manuscript of a Bible in English called the Bible of K. James his translation.’

    By tracing the protracted law-suits between the Barkers and their rivals, H. R. Plomer (see above) has explained the extraordinary variations in the imprints of Bibles during the seventeenth century, and has shown who in each successive period actually held the office of King’s Printer. Many editions which bear the name ‘Barker’ must have been produced by other printers.

    DESCRIPTION Eighteen preliminary leaves: title (in the centre of an engraving), verso blank, Dedication: To the most high and mightie Prince, Iames . . . —3 pp., The Translatorsto the Reader—11 pp., Kalendar—6 ff., An Almanacke for xxxix. yeeres(1603-41) with notes Of the Golden numberetc. —1 p., To finde Easter for euer—1 p.,The Table and Kalender,expressing the order of Psalmes and Lessons to be said at Morning and Euening prayer throughoutthe yeere, except certaine proper feasts, as the rules following more plainely declare(with tables of Proper Lessons. etc.)—5 pp., The names and order of all the Bookes. . . —1 p. The text, divided into two parts: (1) OT and Apocrypha, A 1 to Ccccc 6 b(two pages, Bbb 3 band Lll 6 b, are blank); (2) NT, with title: TheNeweTestament ofour Lord and SauiourIesus Christ. Newly Translated out ofthe Originall Greeke: and withthe former Translations diligentlycompared and reuised, by hisMaiesties speciall Com-mandement.Imprintedat London by RobertBarker, Printer to theKings most ExcellentMaiestie. Anno Dom. 1611(within woodcut border), verso blank, text—A 2 to Aa 6 b.

    Signatures: A6 B2C6D4, A-Z6Aa-Zz6Aaa-Zzz6Aaaa-Zzzz6Aaaaa-Ccccc6, A-Z6Aa6; 732 H. Leaves not numbered. Double columns, with 59 lines to the full column. Headlines, chapter contents, marginal references, and words not in the original, are printed in roman type; alternative and other renderings, and a very few notes, in the margins, are in italics. The whole printed page is enclosed within rules. No Prologues, or expository notes.

    The Genealogies of Holy Scripturesand a Map are inserted before Genesis. In one variety of the former, the first page contains a large cut of the royal arms and the words Cum PriuilegioRegiæ Maiestatis, on verso is a preface To the Christian Reader, the Genealogies—pp. 1 to 34. Signatures: A-C6. The Map, Begun by Mr. John More continued and finished by John SpeedeAnno Domini 1611, fills two pages, on verso of which is printed An AlphabeticallTable ofthe Land of Canaan, and the borders adioyning: the diuersitie of names obserued; the texts ofScriptures quoted; and the Tribes, Cities, Townes, and places set in their receiued graduations.These Genealogies and Map were compiled by John Speed (1552?-1629), the historian, apparently at the suggestion, and with the assistance, of Hugh Broughton (1549-1612), the eminent Hebraist (See No 230). Speed obtained a patent for ten years, dated 31 Oct. 1610, giving him the right to print and insert them in every edition of the new version of the Bible. Speed’s prices were fixed: large folio, two shillings; small folio, eighteen pence; quarto, twelve pence; octavo, six pence. (Cf. Fry, A Description. . . , p. 32, and pp. 40-1.) Thus, though they really formed no part of the book, the Genealogies and Map are generally found in copies of the early editions of King James’ Bible. Several varieties of both are enumerated by Fry.

    The general title is a fine copper-plate engraving, inscribed C. Boel fecit in Richmont, and representing: above—the Sacred Name יהוה, the Holy Dove, and the Agnus Dei, and a group of Apostles, with St. Matthew seated on the extreme left, and St. Mark on the extreme right; on the left side—Moses, and on the right side—Aaron; below, in the centre— the pelican in her piety, on the left—St. Luke, and on the right—St. John. The NT title- border is a wood-engraving, representing: above-the Sacred Name, the Agnus Dei and the Holy Dove, and SS. Matthew and Mark; on the left side-the tents of the twelve tribes; on the right side-the twelve Apostles; and below--the Lamb slain, and SS. Luke and John; at the bottom is a tablet bearing the words Cum Prioilegio. (This border was used for the general title in a few copies of the folio Bishops’ Bible of 1602, No 271.) A few copies have a general title with this woodcut border.

    No illustrations (except a few cuts in the Genealogies); but many head-pieces, vignettes, etc., and ornamental initials, some of the latter (e.g. that before Romans) resembling those used in folio editions of the Bishops’ Bible.

    THE ‘HE’ AND ‘SHE’ BIBLES.—The intricate typographical problems connected with the early editions of King James’ version are discussed at length in the following: F. Fry’s A Description of . . . the Editions, in large folio, of the Authorized Version . . .(1865), F. H. A. Scrivener’s The Authorized Edition of the English Bible . . . (1884), an article in the Athenæum(20 Sep. 1884), a pamphlet by W. E. Smith entitled A Study of the Great ‘She’ Bible(reprinted from the Library, 1890), and R. Lovett’s The English Bible in the John Rylands Library(pp. 246-253). A useful summary of the facts and an explanation of the problems are given by A. W. Pollard in Records, pp. 66-73.

    It is recognized that from 1611 to 1614 there are two distinct series of editions in various sizes, which differ throughout in many minor points of typography, and are generally distinguished by the names ‘He’ Bibles and ‘She’ Bibles, from their respective readings in Ruth iii. 15 . . . he went into the city, and . . . she went into the city. The suggested explanation of this dualism is that the printing was at first carried on in two separate offices, in order to facilitate rapid production; and that two standard copies were used, one of which had received a certain amount of additional correction from the press editors. Shelater became the accepted wording.

    Bibliographers generally agree that the folio ‘He’ Bible of 1611 is the Hrst impression of this version. Scrivener argues keenly for the priority in printing (though not necessarily in publication) of the folio ‘She’ Bible of 1613,11. But Smith shows that inferences drawn from apparent corrections or corruptions of the text are too precarious to be conclusive. He makes a minute comparison of the varieties in the sizes of the ornamental initials, and in the spaces between the chapters, throughout the first half of the volume, and proves by this method that the ‘He’ Bible was undoubtedly the earlier of the two.

    For the variations in copies of the ‘She’ Bible of 1613,11, see below, No 319.

    The following large type folio editions of this Bible closely resemble one another: (1) 1611 (No 309); (2) 1613,11 (No 319); (3) 1617 (No 353); (4) 1634 (No 487); (5) 1640,39 (No 543). These agree so closely that the corresponding leaves practically always end with the same word, and are thus interchangeable. Hence many copies of these large editions are mixed.

    A church Bible for West Rudham was bought at Lynn Mart, 6 Feb. 1611 (= 1612) for 53s. 4d. In 1611 the Dean and Chapter of Worcester bought a Great Bible of the new translation for 58s.

    This is a ‘He’ Bible; with the text styled ‘A’ by Smith in his pamphlet cited above. In Exodus xiv. 10 three lines are repeated: this passage is correctly printed in the ‘She’ Bible of 1613,11, and in most but not all other editions. Other special readings of this edition are: Gen. x. 16, Emoritefor Amarite; Exod. xxxviii. 11, hoopesfor hookes; Lev. xiii. 56, plainefor plague; headline on Gggg 2 b, Joel forMicah; Xxxx 3 b Ecclesiasticus forBaruch; headline on Iiii 6 a, Anocrynhafor Apocrypha; etc.

    A verbatim reprint of this folio was issued by the Oxford University Press in 1833.

    A large copy, with original rough edges to some of the leaves; printed on unusually thick paper. Fry’s ‘Standard Copy of the first issue, 1611.’

    The Genealogies represent the variety distinguished by Fry as No 2. The Map has the sea unshaded, and does not bear R. Elstrack’s name as engraver.

    See under 1833 (No 1792) for reprint in roman type and under 1911 (No 2166) for facsimile in reduced size.

    The STC list 2217 as 1611 giving the following locations:

    BM Bod NLS TCD: NN

    but this appears to be the 1613 Bible STC 2224which, though many copies have 1611 on the title-page, is recognized as having been published in 1613 (No 319).