1631 Bible Is Missing a Very Important Word

'Wicked Bible' dropped word 'not,' inadvertently encouraged adultery
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2022 10:15 AM CDT
Updated May 7, 2022 6:30 AM CDT
1631 Bible Is Missing a Very Important Word
A copy of the infamous gaffe. (This is not the copy in New Zealand.)   (Wikimedia Commons)

It's considered "one of the most serious blunders in publishing history," according to the University of Canterbury in New Zealand. But also one of the funniest: A Bible printed in England in 1631 left out the word "not" in the Seventh Commandment and thus instructed readers: "Thou shalt commit adultery." The typo caused an uproar at the time—King Charles I was not amused—resulting in the destruction of nearly all of the approximately 1,000 copies in print, per the Guardian. However, about 20 specimens of the aptly nicknamed "Wicked Bible" are known to have survived, and one just surfaced in New Zealand for the first time.

“It’s a mystery, it’s fascinating, and it has made its way halfway around the world,” Chris Jones, associate professor in medieval studies at the university, tells the Guardian. A former student brought him the copy, obtained in an estate sale, and Jones is unveiling it for the first time after a few years of study and restoration work. Much debate exists about how the typo came to be, including a theory that a rival printer sabotaged the efforts of royal printer Robert Barker. Jones, however, thinks the reason is less sinister: He chalks it up to overworked copy editors operating in what was then a highly competitive industry. (Read more Bible stories.)

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