Typographical errors are the bane of the lives of all those associated with the production of books, journals, and newspapers. When Robert Barker and Martin Lucas printed 1,000 copies of their edition of the Bible in 1631, they had failed to spot that they had omitted the word “not” from the seventh commandment in Exodus 20:14.
They had produced what became to be known as the Adulterous or Sinners’ or just plain Wicked Bible. The error which encouraged the commission of adultery was only spotted a year later and while it did not exactly bring the wrath of God on the heads of the unfortunate duo, it did provoke the ire of King Charles I. Barker and Martin were summoned before him, were stripped of their printer’s licence, and were fined £300, which, fortunately for them, was suspended. Most, but not all, of the bibles were destroyed.
One has been discovered in New Zealand, Chris Jones, a medieval historian at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, announced a few days ago. It was unearthed in 2018 and is owned by the Phil and Louise Donnithorne Family Trust. It was in poor condition, with its cover and some end pages missing, and had suffered some water damage. It has just one illegible name in the frontispiece and this version uses red and black ink, unlike many of the other surviving copies. How it got to New Zealand is a mystery as is whether the typo was deliberate, an act of industrial sabotage, or just carelessness.
It has taken four years to restore the Bible, but the text is being digitised so that all, with internet access, can enjoy it, fortunately with the typo still there. It would be a shame to correct it.