People have diverse reasons to buy old Bibles for sale. For example, an individual may plan to buy an antique King James Version as an heirloom, which will be passed down for generations. Another may like to acquire a Geneva Bible to be given to a loved one as a gift – be it for a wedding anniversary or a birthday. Some may even like to buy ancient Bibles as an investment.
You may even have plans to start your own collection of antique Bibles. Whatever be your reason for buying these old Bibles, you may feel somewhat intimidated by the jargon that antique book dealers use while negotiating a deal.
Given below is an overview of the technical terms the antiquarian book trade involves, which will help you navigate this world with relative ease and better understand the different factors contributing to the price of old Bibles for sale.
In the ancient era, Bibles were made of large sheets of paper. A folio Bible (2°) had these sheets folded in half, which created 2 leaves or 4 pages. Quarto Bibles (4°) had these sheets folded in half twice, which created 4 leaves or 8 pages. Octavo Bibles (8°) had these sheets folded in half thrice, resulting in 8 leaves or 16 pages. In terms of size, folio Bibles were the largest (standing tall at 11-20”), followed by quarto and octavo Bibles that stood tall at 8-10.75” and 6-7.5”, respectively.
This term stands for the order and manner in which leaves are collected into signatures and bound into a single book. Collation lets you decide if any pages are missing and the edition or version of the book. Antique Bible collectors and dealers typically use catalogs, like Thomas Herbert Darlow and Horace Frederick Moule’s Historical catalogue of the printed editions of Holy Scripture or A.S. Herbert’s Historical catalog of Printed Bibles to date and list ancient Bibles accurately.
Old Bible texts often had extra features. For instance, J.S. Speed’s Illustrated Genealogies came with a pictorial depiction of thirty-four pages of the pedigree from Adam to Christ, and had an optional map of the Promised Land spread across double pages. The Book of Common Prayer - the Anglican Church’s guide to baptism, communion, marriages, and other ceremonies, is another example worth noticing. Some old Bibles for sale even had a calendar that would include significant holy days and daily scripture readings.
This gives ownership details of a Bible as it passes through several members of the royal family, collectors, or specific families. In other words, provenance lets you trace an old Bible’s ownership through a famous person.
A handful of ancient Bibles had the borders and vital parts of the text marked with a straight edge and red ink. A scribe would outline every page after printing, which was an extremely lengthy and detail-oriented practice used only by the affluent of those ancient times. Bibles with red-ruling made their text noticeable and easier to read.
Woodcut illustrations found in old Bibles for sale were crafted by expert craftsmen, who would carve a picture into a wooden block. The book’s non-printed parts too would be carved out. This resulted in the carved image being at the same level as these parts. This was followed by the ink’s addition to the block. Next, the block would be pressed onto the page, thus creating the desired woodcut illustration.
Ancient Bibles often had their page perimeters, and the book’s text block undergo soiling, wear, and tear. But since many of these Bibles were originally printed with broad margins, they could be easily trimmed down before a soiled or damaged book was rebound, thus giving the book a relatively fresher and more pleasing look.
Ancient Bibles are always hardcover and come bound in different types of leathers over wooden boards, each offering a somewhat different color and texture. Since the binding of these books weren’t designed to last more than around 200 years, many old Bibles for sale have therefore been re-backed or rebound. Often, the original boards are reused and retained whenever an antique bible is rebound. However, you will rarely find a Bible in its original binding. It’s even rarer to get hold of the original metal hardware that accompanied these ancient Bibles.
All these factors, along with the Bible’s condition, and font size or misprints that add a rare element, determine its value. Take note of these things when browsing old Bibles for sale before finalizing your deal.