The Holy Bible: containing the Olde Testament and the New. Newly translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised: by His Majesties speciall commandement, binding, 1638
Before addressing this binding, I’d like to say a word about this book’s printer. Robert Barker, printer to King James VI/I, printed the first edition of the King James Bible in 1611 (although this edition wasn’t officially “authorized” by the King). He also printed the Judas Bible in 1613(?) and the Wicked Bible in 1631. In short: he’s hilariously wonderful.
Now, on to the stuff you care about. (And, if you don’t actually care, just pretend you do.)
The University of Texas’ Cultural Compass blog examines this binding in detail, particularly in light of women’s role in the 17th century. At the time of this book’s publication, women were embroidering more commonly than men – could this binding have been embroidered by a woman? Cultural Compass says that the needle was “seen as a tongue or a pen with which women could participate in public dialogue with and about the world. Mary’s prominence in this Bible’s embroidered scene, for example, is no accident. The most popular sources of pictorial embroidery in the seventeenth century were Biblical stories of heroic and virtuous women. That the intimate and domestic nativity scene on the cover of this Bible is also one of public worship by the Magi makes it a fitting representation of the simultaneously private and public roles of domestic needlework and its maker.”
Female representation in the book trade? “Heroic and virtuous women”? Love it.