Considering the scrupulous labour involved in the art of letterpress, there is little wonder as to why printers occasionally missed the mark. With the Bible having been the first tome put to a printing press, as well as often being cited as the most-printed book in history, there have undoubtedly been errors in the versions produced over the years – and we have one such example in the St Bride archives.
The version of the Bible printed by John Baskett in 1717 is sometimes referred to as the ‘Vinegar Bible’, due to a typing error at the head of Luke 20:9. The parable should have been correctly called the ‘parable of the vineyard’ whereas Baskett’s typo reads as the ‘parable of the vinegar’.
The vinegar Bible is not the only misprinted Bible we know of – the ‘Printer’s Bible’ from 1612 is another example of a printer’s blunder. Psalm 119:161 depicts David citing printers, rather than Princes, as his persecutors without a cause.
A Barker and Lucas Bible from 1631, meanwhile, contains a seventh commandment decreeing that Christians should commit adultery, as opposed to refraining from it. Whether or not the printers were having a roguish moment is anyone’s guess. We assume they probably weren’t, considering the ‘Thou shalt commit adultery’ commandment cost them £300, which would have been no easy sum to pull together back then. Of all the copies printed, only eleven of them are believed to still be in existence, while most of them were recalled and destroyed.