Rare 400-year-old Bible discovered at Ribble Valley church

Rev. Anderson Jeremiah (left) and Rev. Alexander Baker with their rare find. (s)
Rev. Anderson Jeremiah (left) and Rev. Alexander Baker with their rare find. (s)

A rare 400-year-old Bible worth at least £50,000 has been uncovered in a small Ribble Valley village church.

And this weekend members of the public will get a chance to view the find for the first time when St Mary’s Parish Church in Gisburn puts it on display during the local “scarecrow festival”.

A close up of the rare Bible. (s)

A close up of the rare Bible. (s)

Printed in 1611 by Robert Barker in London and known as the “Great She Bible”, it is one of the earliest known copies of the famous King James Version (KJV) Bible.

The book was discovered when Rev. Anderson Jeremiah and Rev. Alexander Baker began exploring the nooks and crannies of the medieval parish church after starting work there in August 2014.

After initially discussing their find with the British Library the Bible has now been assessed and authenticated by Neil Summersgill, a member of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association based in Blackburn.

The parish history, which dates back to 1135 when the church was first dedicated, makes mention of “a few old prayer books and an old Bible” amongst the historical assets of the church. The historical significance of the Bible was not highlighted in the records so it had lain unrecognised in a cupboard at the back of the church for all that time.

The rare Bible will be on display at the church in Gisburn this Saturday. (s)

The rare Bible will be on display at the church in Gisburn this Saturday. (s)

Only a handful of the “She Bibles” still exist, mostly at major universities such as Oxford and Cambridge as well as a few in Cathedrals such as Salisbury, Exeter and Durham.

It is called a “She Bible” because in Ruth chapter 3 verse 15 it says: “She went into the city”. This verse was changed from another edition of the KJV which said “he”. It was thought to be a typographical mistake.

The “She Bible” edition of the KJV was printed in 1611. It is now thought that He and She Bibles were printed at the same time on different printing presses.

Rev. Alexander Baker said: “It was a really exciting thing to discover – it looks just like something out of Harry Potter!

“One of the wonderful things about worshipping in a church as old as ours is the sense of history that oozes from its walls and discovering the treasures it has to offer.

“But we were stunned to discover a treasure as rare as this.

“We knew as soon as we saw the date of the New Testament it was a significant find.”

Rev. Anderson Jeremiah added: “It’s amazing to think we are able to hold a book printed as the direct result of the command of King James 400 years ago.

“This English language version of the Bible was created to encourage ordinary people to discover the Good News of Jesus Christ for themselves and it is likely that it was the book that first took God’s word into many people’s homes in this part of Lancashire.

“Now we hope to encourage the people of Lancashire and elsewhere to visit our church and discover this Bible for themselves.”

The Bible can be seen this Saturday from 10 am to 3 pm at St Mary’s Parish Church in Gisburn, at the crossroads between the A59 and the A682, postcode BB7 4HF. Thereafter it will be held at a secure location.