STEVENSON, Md. (WJZ)– In all the world, there are only 175 copies of the first printing of the King James Bible. And it turns out, Maryland just happens to have one.
Alex DeMetrick reports it’s a rare find of a very rare book.
Glenn Johnston is the archivist at Stevenson University which has been entrusted by the Maryland Bible Society to care for the 400-year-old book.
Published in 1611, it is the first printing of the King James Bible. Experts know because of a typo in the Book of Ruth– that ‘he’ should be ‘she.’
“That makes it the real thing,” Glenn Johnston, Stevenson University archivist, said.
William Shakespeare was writing plays when King James commissioned the Bible, in part because Bibles of the day used the word tyrant for king.
“Got rid of the word ‘tyrant,'” Johnston said. “Brought in a team of some of the best writers in England at the time in three teams, and they collectively wrote this document.”
How and when it got to Maryland is a mystery. A scholar from Stevenson authenticated it. And though extremely rare, it isn’t pristine. There are tears and repairs, reducing its dollar value.
“What makes it valuable to me, I can see what pages were used,” Johnston said. “I can see the repairs. And all that tells me how the document was used and the impact of the King James Bible as a living document.”
Biblical references in literature and other books can be traced back to the King James version. Even some popular sayings have a link.
“Take thy ease. Eat, drink and be merry. Those words ‘Eat, drink and be merry’ have only been in the English language since the King James Bible,” Johnston said.
And those writers working for the king laid the foundation for future Bibles as English and interpretations evolved.
The Maryland Bible Society is over 200 years old. The King James version may have entered the collection unrecognized prior to the 20th century.