History of Saint James’: 1611 King James Bible

King James BibleFound, Lost, Found

One of the treasures of Saint James’ Church is a folio edition of the 1611 King James Version of the Bible, kept in a display case in the reception room.  First printed over 400 years ago, the Bible of King James “molded the English language, buttressed the ‘powers that be’ and yet enshrined a gospel of individual freedom.  No other book has given more to the English-speaking world.” citation

The King James Bible, also known as the Authorized Version, relied heavily on the translations from the Greek and Hebrew by William Tyndale (circa 1492-1536) who played a critical role in the development of the English language from a mixture of French, Anglo-Norman and Anglo-Saxon.

“Our” King James Bible appears to be an amalgamation of several editions.  There were five folio editions from 1611 to 1640.  In the opinion of a scholar, the Saint James’ copy is a composite of at least four and possibly all the folio editions.  It is known as The Great “he” Bible because of the printing error in the Book of Ruth, Chapter III, verse 15: “’he’ went into the city.” instead of “’she’ went into the city.”  Over time, various errors crept into editions of the Bible.  For example, in the so-called “Wicked Bible” edition of 1631 it was printed in Deuteronomy 5:24 – meant to celebrate God’s greatness – “And ye said, Behold the Lord our God had shewed us his glory, and his great asse.”  The same edition left out a crucial word in Exodus 20:14, which as a result read, “Thou shalt commit adultery.”  The printers were heavily fined.

On the flyleaf is the name Richard Wallor, born 1652.  We can speculate that he and his wife, Anna, obtained the Bible on their marriage about 1680.  Also on the flyleaf is what appears to be a recipe involving quantities of brandy, frankincense and other spices.

In the 1930s, parishioner Frank (Buddy) Edwin Bowman, Jr. (1909-1965), purchased the Bible in a rare book shop in London and donated it to Saint James’, perhaps because of the similarity of the Wallor name with that of a local family, the Wallers who came to Fauquier in the 1700s.

In December 1987 “our” King James Bible was stolen.  In September of the following year, the Rev. Prentice Kinser, III, Rector of Saint James’, received a letter signed only “Harold,” who said he took the Bible because it had been “deeded to him,” but he was dying and wished to return it to the church.  Enclosed with the letter was the key to a locker in the Amtrak station in Richmond.  Mr. Kinser and a Warrenton police officer went to Richmond to retrieve the package.  After some hesitation, fearing that the locker may be booby-trapped, they opened it to find the book wrapped in a green trash bag.  A reward had been offered for the safe return of the Bible, and “Harold” asked that the reward be used for research into the cure for AIDS, a request that the Rev. Kinser honored.  In addition “Harold” was added to the prayer list of the church for a time.

A scholar who examined and researched “our” Bible concluded that “even with its faults, this copy of the King James’ Version of the Bible is a valuable book.  It is acknowledged as the Bible of the English-speaking nations throughout the world.  And, it is complete even if some from various editions.”  Readers will recall that there were major celebrations, exhibitions, and extensive coverage of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible in 2011. In one small English church, parishioners and fellow villagers read the entire Bible non-stop, 24-hours a day, for three days and nights.

Footnote:  The King James Bible was used in the inaugurations of George Washington and other presidents.  Further information on the Bible is available in church archives that may be accessed through the History Committee.

– Compiled by Richard Gookin, SJEC History Committee