16 July 2024

Early ‘Bug’ Bible sells for £6,500 to US bidder at Shrewsbury auction

A 1551 Matthew Bible – sometimes known as the ‘Bug’ Bible – and a manuscript cookery book by the teacher who is claimed to have created the first puff pastry recipe, grabbed the headlines at a Shropshire auction last week.

Halls Fine Art’s books specialist Chris Moore assembled 137 lots of books, manuscripts, maps and autographs for the successful Shrewsbury auction which attracted a packed saleroom.

One of rarest books was the Matthew Bible, sometimes known as the ‘Bug’ Bible, was the fourth edition of the original version first printed in 1537 and sold above estimate for £6,500 to an American bidder.

“Early bibles are often known to collectors by their misprints or particular wording in certain verses,” explained Chris. “The Matthew Bible we had is sometimes known as the ‘Bug’ Bible, on account of the reading in Psalm 91 v 5 ‘So that thou shalt not nede to be afrayed for anye bugges by nyghte’. The word terror is used in later versions.”

The bible was missing 48 of its original leaves or part leaves, including the first 36. However, the Shropshire-based owner had permission from the John Rylands Library in Manchester to photograph the missing leaves which are supplied separately bound.

“The Matthew Bible is rare and 1551 is an early example,” added Chris. “Bibles of this age are nearly always defective because they were literally read to pieces.

“The very earliest bibles were burnt, however, the attitude of the authorities changed in the 1540s, when the clergy were ordered to display a copy of the bible in every parish church. Many were chained to the pulpit.

“The Matthew Bible, first published in 1537, blended together the best work of William Tyndale and Miles Coverdale and is generally considered to be the primary version of the English Bible.

“Thomas Matthew is taken to be the pseudonym of John Rogers, Tyndale’s intimate friend, who printed this version. Rogers was burnt at the stake in 1555.”

The bible was consigned to the auction with 17 other books by a Shropshire collector who saw them sell for more than £16,000.

The other books included a 1581 Bishop’s Bible by Christopher Barker which made £1,500, ‘Injunctions and Articles for the First Visitation of the Bishops’ from 1559, two items bound together, and ‘Sarum (Salisbury) Primer, 1555, in Latin and English, which each sold for £1,400 and Erasmus’s ‘Paraphrase Upon the New Testament’, two volumes bound as one, 1551 and 1549, which made £1,200.

Another star was the manuscript cookery book ‘Receipts of Pastry and Cookery’ by Edward Kidder for the use of his scholars, dated to around 1725, which sold for £3,200. The price is believed to be a record for this book which contained 70 pages of handwritten recipes.

Kidder was the first proprietor of a cookery school in England and is credited with the first recipe for puff pastry. There are manuscript copies of his book in the Universities of Iowa and Pennsylvania which bear strikingly similar handwriting.

“In my opinion, all three copies are by the same hand,” said Chris. “Did he employ a clerk to copy out his recipe books, or are they in the hand of Kidder, who would perhaps have presented them to his lady students? Further research is required to answer these questions.

“Had the book been copied out by a student, it would be worth a few hundred pounds. However, my feeling was that the book may well be in the hand of the author and collectors thought so too, which accounts for its record price of £3,200.”

Other interesting lots included a four feet square, hand-coloured ‘Cruchley’s New Plan of London, 1843’, extending from Highgate in the north to Dulwich in the south and from the River Lea to Hammersmith, which sold for £1,600.

An Indian photograph album, circa 1905, containing, among other views, large photographs of Kitchener reviewing the troops at Secunderabad and the Delhi Durbar, sold way above estimate at £750.

The book, which sold to a bidder in India, included a photograph of two elephants drawing a gun carriage.

A set of facsimile first edition copies of Ian Fleming’s 14 James Bond novels sold for £800.