Rare ‘Breeches Bible’ found in Ballarat

Volunteer Marion Blythman and Roger Burrows with the 1585 Breeches Bible. Photo: Ballarat CourierA rare 1585 ”Breeches Bible” has been literally stumbled upon at the Ballaarat Mechanics’ Institute.

The book was found by volunteer Marion Blythman while tidying up at the historic Sturt Street building a few weeks ago. “We were unpacking some boxes with bits and pieces in it and I saw this bible from 1585,” Ms Blythman said. BMI volunteer Roger Burrows, who has a special interest in antiquarian books, said it was the first mechanically printed and mass-produced bible written in English. “It’s relatively rare on antiquarian book sites,” Mr Burrows said, adding it would be valued between $3000 and $8000.

The Breeches Bible gets its name from a reference to Adam and Eve clothing themselves in “breeches” made from fig leaves in Genesis chapter three, verse seven.

It is also sometimes called the “Geneva Bible” because it was first published by a colony of English Protestant scholars while in exile in the Swiss city.

Melbourne bookseller Barbara Hince said the images taken of the book “fairly conclusively” proved it was a genuine 1585 bible. Its cover page shows it was printed in London by Christopher Barker, a famous English publisher of bibles.

Ms Hince said it was difficult to speculate who would have brought the book to Australia.

“Bibles were something that people coming out from Britain would have had – even a family that didn’t have a lot of books or own a lot of things,” she said.

BMI board member John Blythman said notes with dates, births and deaths were also found in the book, indicating it was a family bible. “While it is now the oldest book in our collection, we have other remarkable publications. Among our treasures is a copy of Britannia printed in 1586 and written in Latin. There is also a handwritten copy of the Koran, dated about 1800,” he said.

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