Interior contents page of the bible
So much for tracing who had owned the bible in the past. It got me no closer to my real concern: did this book really pre-date the Great Fire of London, or was that information just a family myth, passed down to Mrs Walker and on to Cheltenham College when she donated it in 1870?
Dating a printed work is usually a fairly straight-forward task, with details such as title, author, publisher and date being printed either on the title page or, for older material, as a colophon at the back of the book. However the bible was missing many pages at both the front and back and the surviving pages were charred and in poor condition.
When you need help with a book, the obvious source is an expert at
the British Library. From a few photographs Tim Pye, Curator of Printed
Heritage Collections, immediately recognised our poor specimen as a Geneva Bible of around 1610. In a few emails, he picked out vital identifying details hidden within the book.