Rebekah Fisher’s Holy Bible (1676)

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 This edition of the Authorized Bible is bound with Sternhold and Hopkins’ Whole Book of Psalms (1676) and decorated with red ruling in ink, done by hand.

265076 binding

You will note on the front cover the initials “R F” which are also repeated on the back.  The edges of the book are gilded and its further decoration with metal hardware consisting of corners and clasps indicates an expensive binding.

265076 binding

The story of the book’s female ownership and its transformation into a valuable family keepsake is told inside.

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Most early Bibles show births and deaths recorded by hand.  Here, the birth of Rebekah to William and Mary Fisher on January 7, 1660, as well as her baptism ten days later, are printed on a special decorative sheet, subsequently bound into the book. On the facing leaf, Rebekah has carefully inscribed by hand the receipt of the Bible from her father in 1678, possibly as a gift for her eighteenth birthday.  It appears that the special binding was made for the book at this time as well.  The clue is found in the date on the remaining clasp, which is inscribed “Fisher 78.”

265076 clasp

We do not know who the Fishers were, other than that they probably came from the wealthy middle class, and may well have lived in or near London where such a handsome binding could be acquired.  The book stayed in the family, and about a hundred years later an inscription on the front flyleaf by William Fisher Dimond notes that he received the Bible from his grandmother upon her death, “29 January 1787.”  Her name was Sarah Lucas.  Above his inscription is another in Latin: “Fisher Mount Baker ex dono Matris.”  Unfortunately that writing is not dated, but it may also be an eighteenth-century hand.  We do not know if “Sarah Lucas” was also the “Matris” referred to, or, as seems likely, she was yet a third woman who owned this beautiful volume, a remarkable material and spiritual object revealing early modern women.

Source: The Holy Bible, Containing the Old Testament and the New.  London, 1676. Folger Shakespeare Library, 265076. Photos by Georgianna Ziegler.

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