Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bible Stories: An 1814 Edition of the Scott's Reference King James Bible

1814 Scott's Reference Bible (KJV)
In a previous post on the aesthetic beauty of Scripture, I reviewed one of the most excellent, high-end Bibles on the market today, an R.L. Allan. Here, I want to share about an edition of the Word of God that has come into my possession that is of an entirely different sort, the 1814 Scott's Reference King James Bible.

It is an appropriate time to write this piece, as this heirloom in my personal collection is now in its bicentennial year. At 200 years old, it is the grandfather of the many and various Bibles that I possess on my shelf.

This grand book came to my possession as marvelous gift. A couple of years ago, an elder at my church, Karl Baldner, gave me an unexpected gift. In the box was a typed note which read,
To Matthew Everhard, Christmas, 2010
This Scott's Reference Bible, was given to me in 1953 upon my ordination to ministry, by the last person ordained in my local church, Morris Ikenberry. Morris was a lay preacher, who taught, or tried to teach me in Sunday School when I was a kid, and about as ancient as I am now, 76. He received this book from his grandfather who also had been a lay preacher. It, as you will notice, was printed in 1814, making it 196 years old. For a number of years I have been looking for someone I loved and respected, whose ministry showed great love, caring and humbleness for his flock; whose spiritual gifts were many, and from God, including the gift of opening the church front door and welcoming in the sheep and goats. You are the one I have chosen to give this book to. I hope it reminds you of the eternal gift of the Gospel, that has existed all these years, and will continue to exist after you and I, and this book return to dust. May God continue to bless you, your family, and your ministry. -Elder Karl Baldner
(I should say that if you don't know Karl Baldner, you might not have picked up on his subtle sense of humor. He often reminds me that opening the church door is the ONLY real spiritual gift I have. Karl is a Mennonite-turned-Presbyterian who was a pastor and church planter long before church planting became "cool.").

Inside the Bible, there is another inscription, more haunting still,  from an unknown hand which reads in beautiful cartography,
Within this awful volume lies  
The mystery of mysteries 
To read, to hear, to watch, to pray 
To raise the latch and force the way 
But better they had ne'er been born 
Who reads to doubt or reads to scorn (1)
It certainly gives the reader pause and bids him to consider the eternal weight of the contents inside, doesn't it? Now, a bit about the construction of the Bible itself.

Hand-written inscription in the 1814 Scott's Reference Bible
First, it's exterior. It is bound in leather on board. The spine boasts four raised ribs and the placard reads "Scott's Reference Bible" in gold embossed on black.

For those of you who may be Bible Design Blog fans, this is one of the beautiful antiquated styles that is often replicated by quality book rebinders such as Leonard's Books, who is now emulating these older fabrications with great beauty.

The Scott's Reference Bible with much younger companions. 
As cited above, the version is an 1814 printing of the study Bible edited by Rev. Thomas Scott, D.D. whom the title page denotes as the "Rector of Aston Sanford, Bucks, and Chaplain to the Lock Hospital." The volume was printed in Philadelphia by William W. Woodward, by Griggs & Dickinsons, Printers. A quick Google search revealed that Rev. Thomas Scott was a dear friend of John Newton (the author of the great hymnn Amazing Grace). Scott was a pastor ordained in the Anglican tradition, as well as a hospital chaplain who ministered primarily to syphilis patients. His Commentary on the Whole Bible as well as his The Force of Truth gained him international recognition.

Its dimensions are quite large. It's not a full "Family Bible" size, but it is clearly not a pocket reference edition either. It's dimensions are 9.5 X 6 inches with a spine girth of 3.75 inches meaning that it probably resided on the study desk of the four generations of pastors (at least) that have owned it.

1814 Scott's Reference Bible title page and publisher info.
Inside, the text itself, the Authorized Version, is printed in two columns with both center and edge references. With both the gutter and edge margin filled with Scriptural references, the text block is stocked with useful information, perfect for a pastor laboring in the days!

As often as is feasible, the column references attempt an estimation of the date of the context of the Scripture text. For instance, Genesis 1 is noted as pertaining to 4004BC, events surrounding the exile are thusly noted, and the events of the New Testament are given a corresponding date, anno domini. Not only is each book of the Bible given a rather sturdy introduction considering it is really a reference edition (in minuscule print), but each chapter too contains a brief introduction of at least a good, full paragraph. For this reason, this edition might be considered a very old predecessor to the ESV Study Bible to which it is comparable in size.
Scott's Reference Bible, double column, dual margin references.

The pages retain the aged musty smell of a book that has soaked up the fragrances of many and varied homes and bookshelves. Perhaps a cigar-smoker or two once owned this book, although it wouldn't be from its later Mennonite owners! One red blot on the spine says that at some point it had a close encounter with a can of paint. The squared pages are now so stained by the natural elements and aging properties of paper that they are nearly as dark as the chocolate leather.

One day, if the Lord should tarry, I hope to give this Bible to the next pastor down the line who endeavors to carry the enduring Gospel in his own generation.

-Matthew Everhard is the Senior Pastor of Faith Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Brooksville, Florida. He is the author of several books and many articles, as well as an acknowledged bibliophile. 

(1) A version of Sir Walter Scott's poem. The unknown penman omitted verses 3 and 4 which read, "O happiest they of human race/to whom our God has given grace."  

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