1763. Cambridge: Printed by John Baskerville, Printer to the University, 1763.
Royal folio, 573 unnumbered leaves. A2, 1, B-13D2, *a-*e2, *f1. English binding of contemporary full blue-green morocco, covers with elaborate gilt border, backstrip richly gilt with red morocco lettering pieces stamped in gilt "HOLY BIBLE" and at the foot "BASKERVILLE", gilt edges, marbled endpapers. Inevitable slight signs of wear on such a huge book but in all a very good unrestored copy internally flawless.
§ First edition, third issue of the subscribers' list as usual. John Baskerville was a monumental figure in the history of English bookbinding and printing, with contemporary accounts of his work ethic revealing a man deeply engaged in virtually every aspect of book production. Yet for most of his life and indeed for many decades afterwards he was decried as a mere amateur. Still other sources show an individual with highly idiosyncratic and paradoxical habits -- he lived with Sarah Eaves for nearly two decades out of wedlock; a devout atheist who was buried in his own backyard without Christian ceremony; a man who “had wit but always against religion and decency” (F.E. Pardoe in John Baskerville of Birmingham: Letter-Founder and Printer, 1975).
Paradoxically, after taking the position of Printer to the University of Cambridge on 1 December 1758, Baskerville produced one of the few great Bibles. It is a true masterwork, expertly printed with impeccable attention to ink, type, spacing, paper quality and ease of use. Published on 4 July 1763, “the adjective that inevitably comes to mind is ‘noble’ and the volume warrants the word. It was conceived and executed on a grand scale… to show that he had now learnt his craft and was able to practice it in a masterly fashion… [and] the result shows again that Baskerville must be placed in the very top rank of book designers” (Pardoe, 87). Morison and Day (The Typographic Book, 1963) write that “Baskerville’s folio English Bible, printed for the University of Cambridge, is the finest presentation of Holy Writ since Richelieu’s Latin Vulgate printed at the Imprimerie Royal” (48). Gaskell 26. Herbert 1146. Morison & Day, The Typographic Book 48. Huntington Library, Great Books in Great Editions, 7. Rothschild 2640. Rumball Petre 145. Item #123054