Odds and quads

This 400-year-old Bible is probably the most infamous of the rare religious books and manuscripts held in the University of Leicester’s Robjohns Collection.

August 8, 2013

It was the cause of great controversy in 17th-century Britain – all thanks to a single typo that seemingly encouraged infidelity.

This is the “Wicked Bible” of 1631, so called because the printers omitted the word “not” in the Seventh Commandment so that it reads: “Thou shalt commit adultery”. The offending passage, from Exodus 20:14, is pictured.

The book was co-published by Robert Barker, printer of the first edition of the King James Bible. As one of the royal printers, the mistake drew the attention and scorn of Charles I (pictured) and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Barker and fellow publisher Martin Lucas were heavily fined and all 1,000 copies of the Wicked Bible were ordered to be destroyed.

It is thought that only a small number remain in existence, including this example at Leicester.

Send suggestions for this series on the treasures, oddities and curiosities owned by universities across the world to matthew.reisz@tsleducation.com

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