An extremely rare Bible has been discovered, known for an unfortunate mistake that encourages adultery. New Zealand.

The “evil” Bible of 1631, as it became known, omits the word “no” from its seventh commandment, informing readers of “adultery.” A thousand copies of the text, which also became known as the Bible of Adulterers or Sinners, were printed, a mistake was discovered only a year later.

After discovering the error the printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas were summoned by King Charles I and brought to trial, where they were warned for a scandalous typo and sloppy work. They were stripped of their printing licenses, fined £ 300 for years (although it was eventually revoked), and most of the texts were destroyed. Only about 20 remain in circulation.

Bibles do go to auction occasionally mostly in the UK or US, but this is the first time it has been discovered in the southern hemisphere, says the University of Canterbury in Christchurch. The university was first informed of its existence in 2018, but has decided to keep this discovery a secret until now to give researchers and book keepers enough time to study and preserve the book.

“It’s a mystery, it’s fascinating, and it’s flown halfway around the world,” said Chris Jones, an associate professor of media studies at the university and a member of the Society of Antiques in London.

A former student of Jones brought him a copy in 2018 after her family bought it two years earlier when selling the deceased’s estate. The deceased owner was bookbinder Don Hampshire, who arrived in New Zealand in the late 1950s from the UK and died in Christchurch in 2009, but as far as Jones can tell, Hampshire never told anyone about owning them.

Jones’ former student told him she thought it was an “evil” Bible, but he “didn’t believe it very much because it’s unusual.”

The commandment is well known as it appears in the book of 1631, later called the Bible of the wicked or sinners. Photo: digital photography from New Zealand Micrographic Services, Ltd. © University of Canterbury

“It’s not that you just walk into an office, finding one in a garage in Christchurch. But I looked at it and thought, “Wow, that’s exactly what my former student thinks – it’s an evil Bible. I was impressed by that. “

Jones said there are copies in Canada, some in the US, others in the UK, Ireland and a “very good copy” in Dublin.

“Australians say they have, but they don’t,” Jones laughed, adding that their copy did not contain the infamous “no.”

“That one came to me in Christchurch is just great.”

The opening of the book sparked Jones’ interest in the history of the Bible and the myths about why the mistake was made, the lawsuit surrounding it, and the wider printing industry of the time he plans to publish articles.

There is a debate about how the printing error occurred, with theories that it could have been a deliberate act of industrial sabotage by a rival printing house. But Jones dispelled the rumors, saying it was much more likely that the printing presses that worked at the head of the industry were simply cutting costs on editors.

The life of the New Zealand copy, owned by the Phil and Louise Donitorn Family Foundation, remains a mystery before she arrived in the country. Where many Bibles contain detailed descriptions of family trees, dates, places, and records of births and deaths, this copy has only one obscure name.

The copy was in relatively poor condition when it was found again, with no cover, some water damage, and a few pages on the back disappeared forever. But it also has some unique features – it’s one of the few copies that has more decorative red and black inks and is a much more complete version than many others.

Conservative books and paper Sarah Aski has preserved the subject by carefully crafting the work, installing a new cover and preserving it for future generations. Eski documented any small features that might help give clues as to where the book was – between some pages she found the remains of plants, human hair and textile fibers.

“It was inconvenient to manage … and there were a lot of solutions to the problems, but it was very satisfying,” Eski said.

The book has been fully digitized and will be free to the public via the website in the coming months – what Jones hopes will shed more light on the mysterious illegible copy name scrawled inside.

“I hope someone comes in and says, ‘Chris Jones, you’re an idiot, it’s really obvious,’ and I’m looking forward to it.”

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