A very attractive, symbolic binding of the first Chronological Bible ever printed. And that in massive, folio format.
In Cambridge University's exhibition, Chronologies: Remember the Reformation, the present folio takes pride of place for being the first Chronological Bible, utilizing Archbishop Ussher's dating schema. Ussher's Annales veteris testamenti was first published in Latin in 1650, expanded to include the New Testament in 1654, and translated into English in 1658. It began a tradition of attempting to give a precise date to the first moment of Creation. He does. According to Ussher, the first day of creation was Sunday, the twenty-third of October, in the year 4004 B.C. He goes on to detail the events of the first chapter of Genesis, assigning a date to each stage of Creation’s unfolding. Ussher’s extraordinary precision here may seem unnecessary to us, but the calculation of the age of the world was a necessary foundation for all further temporal relations between events in history. The major Reformation dates of reformation era prophetic writers are all tabulated on such a scale of biblical-historical time; works like Usher’s throw into relief how something as familiar as a system of dating in anno domini depends upon a system of understanding rooted in Christian soteriology.
The dating system was not integrated into an actual Bible, to be read in tandem, until the present edition, making it substantively the first Chronological Bible.
Additionally, in common with other earlier work, Ussher centers Christ in his chronology as the centerpiece of all history. Everything before Christ is designated and everything afterward, as such. It has been suggested that the chronological idea is also played out in the binding itself, which, to our knowledge, appears unique. The central medallion surrounds a simple, singular star; perhaps Christ. Surrounding the medallion are 16 stars, perhaps one for each century up to the compilation of Ussher's chronology. And surround those are four larger stars, perhaps one for each millennium prior to Christ's arrival. It is ultimately unknowable whether this a geometric happenstance or designed, but allegorical bindings are not unusual in the period and the invitation to perhaps read it this way is heightened by the "cathedral" or "temple" design surrounding the central panel; often an indicator of an ideological structure on the interior design.
Each spine panel similarly has three large stars across, the center being encircled; perhaps another nod to the centrality of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus on the timeline.
A copy of the same, important folio issue sold at Christies, 2016 with a contemporary Book of Common Prayer for in excess of $5,000.00
The Holy Bible, Containing the Old Testament and the New Newly Translated Out of the Original Tongues And with the Former Translations Diligently Compared and Revised. By His Majesties Special Command. Appointed to be Read in Churches. London. Printed by Charles Bill and the Executrix of Thomas Newcomb deceas'd. Printers to the Kings most Excellent Majestie. Cum Privilegio. MDCCI. 1456 + Chronological Index Summarizing the Dating System
Original massive folio, measuring a whopping 13 x 19 x 4.5 inches and weighing in at 23 lbs.
Original calf, rubbed and bumped, through at some points, early micro repair to front hinge, now surface split. Very solid. First gather tight to front board, edges of leaves handled. Original engraved title by John Sturt. Genesis 1 leaf torn across, but repaired. Each book of Scripture adorned with a decorative thematically specific woodcut. Else generally crisp and sound with some occasional foxing, minor handling or closed tears. New Testament title crisp.