FREE Domestic Shipping!

Hexham Abbey Bible – 1629 Cambridge BCP/NT/PS 1st Ed + 115 16th-C. Engravings


Hexham Abbey Bible (1629)


In stock

SKU: B1629HexhamBible Category:



The Hexham Abbey Bible. One-of-a-kind Bible-Prayer Book! 1629 King James “Authorized Bible,” Cambridge University Press FIRST EDITION KJV published by Tho[mas] and John Buck, Cambridge, Med. Folio, 1629. Reference: Herbert 424 (lacks OT, this being designed as a Prayer Book). SUPERIOR condition.  This deliberately constructed Prayer Book/Bible contains the Book of Common Prayer, New Testament, and Whole Book of Psalms in English Meter (all titles d. 1629; all parts complete). A UNIQUE volume: Bound and interleaved in the NT (most likely in 1661, not later) are 115 mostly 16th century engravings (106 full-sized; plus 18 half-sized, two to a page); most engravings are dated to 1565-1585, a handful dated to 1639-1643.

This is the earliest known English Bible with engravings (other than title pages or portraits of the monarch), and the only known English Bible with 16th Century engravings. Detailed prospectus and Complete List of Engravings available on request.

Established provenance: The Prayer Book Bible as we now have it was reorganized and interleaved by Rev. Dr. George Ritschel, Sr. in 1660-1661 at Hexham Abbey, Northumberland, UK. Bible’s ownership was passed down through a series of Rectors and Lecturers at Hexham Abbey, the last known being Rev. Robert Clarke, c.1840 (bookplate); bound by Robert’s father, Sloughter Clarke, c.1800, also a Lecturer.  The Hexham Abbey Bible was likely designed as a gift to Bishop [of Durham] John Cosin on the occasion of his promotion to Bishop, exemplifying the word-picture didactic theory of Ritschel’s academic mentor, Jan Amos Comenius (1592-1670). The proposed gift was likely to secure Dr. Ritschel’s job as rector of Hexham Abbey following the return of Charles II to the throne in 1660. But with the publication of the new BCP in January 1662 this Prayer Book Bible, now obsolete, was “shelved” in 1662, being unused or unusable until its re-discovery in 2012 by Dr. Bruce T. Martin. The Hexham Abbey Bible is among the very first efforts to put pictures in English Bibles, such things having become legal in England only in 1660. For details, see the several BLOGS on this site’s HomePage. See also Dr. Martin’s Exhibit essay: “Holy Beauty or Unholy Marriage?”

The Hexham Abbey Bible‘s pages are in pristine condition, without marks or tears or folds, though the fine linen-rag paper (McMullin’s forme E, an exceptionally fine paper) shows signs of ageing. Gilted and gauffered edges adorned with diamond patterns and other symbols, done after the rebinding with all the engravings bound in. Tightly bound in plain brown leather covered boards c.1790 (per the conservator; see her notes and authenticating paperwork), with five raised bands and gilt lettering to spine. Engravings are of the same paper type and size as the Bible, albeit with light to moderate handling due to their greater age. A few engravings are cropped at the top to fit the page size of the Bible; scattered minor edge-cut repairs.

All engravings are Old Masters in the Northern Renaissance or Netherlandish style. Artists include: G. Groenning, J. Sadeler, Marmen Muller, H. Goltzius, J. Wierix, M. de Vos, G. de Jode, J. Stradanus, M. van Heemskerck, P. Galle, P. Furnius, H. Collaert. Ask for the complete list. Many engravings are FIRST STATE, and some are quite rare (est. value of engravings alone: $40k-$50k, with some sold at auction for $6K or more).

After six years of scholarly research the Hexham Abbey Bible was first exhibited to the public in early 2018 at the Hallie Ford Museum of Art, in Salem, OR (USA), under curator and world-renowned scholar Dr. Ricardo De Mambro Santos (expert in the engravings), under the exhibit title “Holy Beauty: Northern Renaissance Engravings Discovered in an Early English Bible.” The great importance of the Hexham Abbey Bible is that, to our knowledge, it is the earliest known English Bible to contain bound-in picture-engravings (rather than portraits), and the only known English Bible to contain 16th century engravings of any kind. [There are some Bibles c.1660 that contain bound-in 17th century engravings].

The 1629 Cambridge folio edition is said to be the most beautiful English Bible printed to that date. On the cusp of the Enlightenment the Hexham Abbey Bible represents the best of Western Civilization in its single-volume combination of Art and History that has shaped the modern world. There is no equal among early English Bibles.

Bible sets in a hand-made, clamshell archival box. Dark green buckram cloth, over boards, with gold-gilt lettering on the spine.

Consideration will be given to institutions that can exhibit this Bible for public display and for scholarly research. Bible may be hand-delivered to locations within the USA, Canada, and UK. Locations may require Buyer pickup or other agreed method of delivery.

Additional information

Bible / Date

King James (Cambridge) / 1629




12.3" x 9.0" x 1.35"