I’d never heard of the Vinegar Bible before today. It was Glenn Beck who brought it to my attention, talking about it in a recent interview on “style over substance” which was carried on his website The Blaze.
But what is it? Well, it is a unique version of the King James Bible printed in 1717 by the Scottish king’s printer, John Baskett. Richly bound in leather with gilt edging, the Vinegar Bible was very expensive–and would probably have been owned and prominently displayed by royalty, as a kind of status symbol; but it was not intended to be read. That’s why it didn’t really matter that the book was filled with typographical and typesetting errors. Glenn Beck explained:
Printed by John Baskett, the infamous edition of the Bible got its nickname from the multitude of editing errors throughout the holy tome, as the cost of manual corrections prevented the mistakes from being corrected after printing. The most blatant error is the chapter heading in Luke 20 which reads “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of “The Parable of the Vineyard.””
John Baskett has been called “one of the greatest monopolists of bibles who ever lived.” Beginning in 1715, Baskett filed a number of lawsuits intended to preserve a monopoly on printing and selling bibles in the United Kingdom.
Baskett’s King James Bible is so carelessly printed that it was humorously called “A Baskett-full of printers’ errors.” It’s believed that the “Vinegar Bible” is the original source of the term “basket case”–referring to something that is full of errors/faults and is therefore not fit for its intended purpose.
Image of a Page From The Vinegar Bible By Victuallers (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons