The K. D. Kennedy, Jr. Rare Book Room has recently received on loan a fragile, early edition of the King James Bible published in England in 1688. The first translation of the Authorized King James Version of the Bible was commissioned in 1604 by British King James I and was completed in 1611.
This loaned copy of the Bible has been passed down through the family of Mrs. Webber Paxton, a member of the Friends of Hackney Library Board, making its way to the New World with family members in the early 1700s. Webber Paxton has graciously consented to lend the book to the Rare Book Room.
While students will be permitted to view the 1688 Bible, because of its fragility, they will actually be working with and handling a facsimile of the 1611 version of the King James Bible that benefactor K. D. Kennedy, Jr., had previously donated to the Rare Book Room holdings. Students will also have access to an actual page from the 1611 first edition.
The times during which the Webber family’s Bible was published were tumultuous in terms of religious tolerance in England and Scotland. In 1687, one year prior to the Bible’s publication, King James II issued his “Declaration of Indulgence” and “Declaration for Liberty of Conscience,” which were first steps toward promoting freedom of religion in the British Isles (specifically, freedom from conformity to the Church of England in terms of worship and in taking an oath to the Anglican church to procure employment) by essentially negating the effects of laws that punished Catholics and non-Anglican Protestants.
Primary documents such as the Webber Bible are invaluable to the research efforts of Barton College students, faculty, and other users of the Rare Book Room collections. We are most grateful to Mrs. Webber Paxton for the loan of her family’s 1688 Bible.