This copy of the Authorized Version demonstrates the extent to which Bibles of the seventeenth century were the personalized products of their owners. An ordinary octavo Bible, printed by Henry Hills and John Field (who, during the Protectorate, had paid to be allowed to print Bibles in London, and who, for four years from 1660, farmed the right of the University of Oxford to print them), has been finely bound in morocco, with extensive gilt tooling, and silver corners and clasps, for its owner, Elizabeth Brodridge, whose initials ‘EB’ appear, worked in silver, in the centre of the front board. As well as paying a binder for this work, Elizabeth Brodridge herself has decorated the fore-edge of the Bible with a signed painting of flowers.
Bibles were objects of special meaning, which perhaps had particular importance for those who were unlikely to own many other books. Finely-bound and illustrated Bibles seem often to have belonged to women, and, in many cases, may have been gifts received on a significant occasion, such as a marriage or a birthday. Several London booksellers and binders specialized in the provision of such books.
Most of the Genesis illustrations in this Bible belong to the series engraved by van Langeren, with an accompanying Hebrew text, and Latin, Greek, and English verses supplied by Slatyer (see catalogue no. 6 ). Each page shows two scenes; for example, the creation of man and the naming of the animals appears above the creation of Eve, and the Ark of Noah floating on calm waters, as the raven and the dove are sent out, appears above the scene of the Ark resting on Ararat. In many of the cuts, including those of the creation of Adam and Eve, the figure of God is represented by the tetragrammaton within a shining cloud (the Shechinah). This device provided some protection against the accusations of idolatry and Popery frequently levelled at depictions of biblical scenes, and had been used from the sixteenth century to replace the figure of God when woodblocks made for Catholic works were reworked to illustrate Protestant Bibles.