Bibles, first U.S. printed royal quarto. 1791 Holy Bible, printed by Isaiah Thomas.


The first Royal Quarto edition of the Bible printed in the United States in 1791 by the venerable printer Isaiah Thomas; also in 1791, Thomas released the first U.S. folio edition.

This is a nice copy, in a handsome binding, with some page repairs and collates complete (excepting a blank last leaf).

A "Sarah Bradford" signed her name to this Bible in 1800.

About the Isaiah Thomas Editions -

Prior to the U.S. Revolutionary War, the United Kingdom did not allow printing of English Bibles in North America. The printer Isaiah Thomas, with great diligence, executed this Royal Quarto edition, and a folio, releasing them in 1791; they are held in high regard. For example, the New York Public Library wrote (of the folio) -

"... the finest English Bible printed in America in that period."

Followed by -

"Like the Thomas folio of this year, his royal quarto was an excellent typographical product." - Exhibition of Bibles in Various Languages, NYPL, January 1927

Thomas clearly states his reasons for embarking on this endeavor in the preface. Here's a snippet:

"The civil authority hath set an example of moderation and candor to all Christians, by securing equal privileges to all; and it must be their ardent and united wish, independently of foreign aid, to be supplied with copies of the sacred Scriptures, the foundation of their Religion - a religion which furnishes motives to the faithful performance of every patriotick, civil and social duty, superior to the temptations of ambition, avarice and selfishness; - which opens prospects to the human mind that will be realized when the relation to civil government shall be dissolved, and which will raise its real disciples to their highest glory and happiness when the monuments of human genius, art and enterprise, shall be lost in the general dissolution of nature ."

Bibliographic Details -

Thomas offered three versions of this Royal Quarto in 1791. This is the simplest version, containing only an illustration at the start of the Old and New Testament. A concordance could be added, as a second option. The third option included the concordance, illustrations from the folio edition and a binding.

English Short Title Catalogue entry number 006446065. This copy without a leaf signed 164A4, but the ESTC says the pagination is "1310, [2]", indicating the leaf following page 1310 would have been blank.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 30 x 23.5 x 11 cm, quarto. Calf binding; boards tooled in blind with a Cambridge style of frames and corner florets. Spine with five raised bands; "Holy Bible 1791" in gilt on red morocco in one compartment. Two plates, one at the start of the OT, the other at the start of the NT. Several tailpieces, two title pages.

Pages - 1310, with 2 plates

Collation - A4, A-Z4, (then each gathering is numbered at start; 25A, 26B, etc) 25A to 163Z4, 164A1 to A164A3 (A4 missing).

Condition -

See pictures. Fresh leather binding; a few small ring marks and scuffs but mostly a very nice binding. Bible has been repaired throughout, toning to paper gives appearance that it was an older repair job.

Frontis mounted in frame with blended tissue repair holding it. Title page and leaves through page 26 with various gutter, corner and edge repairs. An ink stain at bottom margin of same leaves. Throughout book occasional page repairs. Some thumbing along edges and occasional page edge chip or tear, but many repaired. Name inscription on page 8, in the place "Property of". Occasional marginal moisture mark line. Some dog-eared corners. Toned with some foxing throughout, as is typical of paper of this period. Odd mark on S2, something is actually in the paper, as it was made. 35-L2 with a stain. 64R has rough fore and top edge. 65S4 repair at top-edge affects text; this area was proud before rebind I'm sure. Occasional ink marks. Evidence of stabbed binding at gutter near off-color gathering 99F; probably from another copy and used to repair this copy. Bottom edge 145E1 rough. (Blank?)

164A4 leaf missing, last leaf of last gathering; pagination, compared with catalogs, shows complete (ending at 1310) so presumably a blank leaf.

Despite notes, collates complete (excepting the last blank leaf), in a nice binding, and repaired but retaining the sense of history by being an older repair. A nice Bible.

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