October 2015 | Nate Pedersen

The Wicked Bible Heads to Auction

wicked bible 1631.jpg
An extremely rare 1631 Bible, dubbed "The Wicked Bible" after a critical error left out the word "not" from the seventh commandment ("Thou shalt *not* commit adultery), is heading to auction at Bonhams next month.

In 1631, London printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas printed 1,000 copies of The New Testament. One year later,  it was brought to their attention that The Ten Commandants included the dubious line "Thou shalt commit adultery." The unfortunate mistake did not go unnoticed by the authorities. The printers were hauled to court on the orders of Charles I where they fined £300 (approximately £45,000 today, or just shy of $70,000) and had their printing license revoked. The vast majority of the 1,000 copy print run was also destroyed, with only 10 copies believed to have survived to modern times. Throughout its subsequent nearly four hundred-year history, the book has been variously dubbed "The Wicked Bible," "The Sinners Bible," and "The Adulterous Bible."

According to Bonhams, which will auction the book as part of its November 11 sale, research has revealed that the mistake may have been a deliberate act of sabotage by a rival printer. The fallout from the scandal did indeed sink the fortunes of both Barker and Lucas. 

The Wicked Bible is estimated at £10,000-£15,000 ($15,000-$23,000).

[Image from Bonhams]