The First Thumb Bible in English Prose


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Biblia or a practical summary of the Old and New Testaments. London: Printed for R Wilkin, 1728.

2 vols bound as 1, 64o, pp. [xii], 278, [xii] + divisional title-page between pp. 154-5 and with 15 woodcut plates, including the frontispiece, some of which are described at the end of the book (‘particular cuts explain’d’), page 81 misnumbered 41, cut facing the divisional title mounted on the verso of the final leaf of vol. 1; closed horizontal tear to frontispiece, corners a little rounded, contemporary sheep, upper joined and headcaps renewed, gilt decoration rubbed, supplied with new front free endpaper, all edges originally gilt but worn. ‘Thumb Bibles’ became popular devotional books for children in the 17th century, often illustrated (as here), heavily abridged (for obvious reasons), and rendered into verse. Ours, published by Richard Wilkin in 1728, seems to have been the earliest prose version. It was first published in 1727 and there are no copies dated 1728 in UK libraries (although ESTC records half a dozen overseas), but as the date change from 7 to 8 seems to have been made by hand with the stroke of a pen, we are almost certainly looking at exactly the same sheets. The publisher and bookseller Richard Wilkin (d.1740) was the son of the Vicar of Heathfield in East Sussex, and he bequeathed his library to be kept in the vicarage there, for the use of all future incumbents. His upbringing was evidently a significant influence: his imprint occasionally describes him as ‘R. Wilkin (a clergyman’s son)’ and he seems to have enjoyed publishing Tory and High Church preachers; the overwhelming majority of the books which he published on his own rather than as part of a consortium of other booksellers are theological. ESTC T67305


The First Thumb Bible in English Prose




WILKIN, Richard

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contemporary sheep