An example of a delapidated spine
of a Masonic Bible and how they can
look when restored by experts
Of all the antiquities within the Lodge,
the Volume of The Sacred Law is the most
important. The Great Light in Masonry,
and The Rule and Guide for Masonic
Faith and Practice is placed on the Master’s
pedestal when the Lodge is opened,
where the meetings are conducted in
peace and harmony.
Most often, the Lodge Bible is the
original that was gifted when the Lodge
was first consecrated. But what Bible did
Masons use before 1717, the year in which
the first Grand Lodge was constituted?
Prior to 1611 it is almost certain that the
majority of them used the famous Geneva
Bible, published in 1560. It was the first issue
of the Bible to cut the text into chapters and
numbered verses, its costs were low and it
was the Bible of the Reformation.
In the Book of Genesis it printed the line
‘made themselves breeches’ instead of ‘made
themselves aprons’ and henceforth became
known as the ‘Breeches’ Bible.
The Authorized, or King James, Version
was first printed in 1611, in black letter,
large folio, with 1,400 pages. Because of
a typographical error, Ruth III, verse 15,
was printed with a ‘he’ instead of a ‘she’ and
for that reason it was called the ‘“He” Bible.’
Copies of its now very rare first edition, in
good condition, can be valued £50,000+.
In the Second Issue, this Version contained
another famous misprint, Matthew XXVI,
36, where ‘Jesus’ is printed as ‘Judas’.
The ‘Wicked Bible’ is the most
notorious example, in it the ‘not’ was
purposely omitted from certain of the Ten
Commandments, for which Robert Barker
and Martin Lucas, the King’s Printers, were
hauled before the church and fined £300
by Archbishop Laud, and the edition of
one thousand copies confiscated.
For a century the Authorized Bible
was no doubt used by Masons as it was
by everybody else, almost to the exclusion
of any other version.
In 1717, John Baskett, an Oxford printer,
published an edition of his own, which came
to be named after him, The Baskett Bible
was dubbed The “Vinegar Bible” because,
in Luke XX, the word “vineyard” was
The title page, for the first time in any
Bible, consisted of a prospect of buildings.
For this reason, and also perhaps because
it had been published in 1717, or for both
reasons, it became popular among Masons
in America and Australia as well as in
England. More often than any other,
it is mentioned in the inventories which
were incorporated in old Lodge minutes.
In 1750 John Baskerville became a
designer of Type, a rival to the famous
Caslon – whose typefaces are standard today.
In 1758, Baskerville was elected printer to
Cambridge University, and in 1763 he
produced a large folio edition of the Bible.
Web site created by Mark Griffin