The Wicked Bible, sometimes called Adulterous Bible or Sinners' Bible, is the Bible published in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London, meant to be a reprint of the King James Bible. The name is derived from a mistake made by the compositors: in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14), the word "not" in the sentence "Thou shalt not commit adultery" was omitted, thus changing the sentence into "Thou shalt commit adultery". This blunder was spread in a number of copies. About a year later, the publishers of the Wicked Bible were called to the Star Chamber and fined £300 (equivalent to £45,844 as of 2016) and deprived of their printing license. The fact that this edition of the Bible contained such a flagrant mistake outraged Charles I and George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said then:
I knew the time when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the best, but now the paper is nought, the composers boys, and the correctors unlearned.
The majority of the Wicked Bible's copies were immediately cancelled and burned, and the number of extant copies remaining today, which are considered highly valuable by collectors, is thought to be relatively low. One copy is in the collection of rare books in the New York Public Library and is very rarely made accessible; another can be seen in the Dunham Bible Museum in Houston, Texas, US. The British Library in London had a copy on display, opened to the misprinted commandment, in a free exhibition until September 2009. The Wicked Bible also appeared on display for a limited time at the Ink and Blood Exhibit in Gadsden, Alabama, from August 15 to September 1, 2009. A copy was also displayed until June 18, 2011 at the Cambridge University Library exhibition in England, for the 400-year anniversary of the King James Version.
Historically, the omission of "not" was considered quite a common mistake. Until 2004, for example, the style guide of the Associated Press advised using "innocent" instead of "not guilty" to describe acquittals, so as to prevent this eventuality. The Wicked Bible is the most prominent example of the bible errata which often have absent negatives that completely reverse the scriptural meaning.
Apart from the contempt within the church, the case of the Wicked Bible was commented on by historians soon after the printing:
His Majesties Printers, at or about this time, had committed a scandalous mistake in our English Bibles, by leaving out the word Not in the Seventh Commandment. His Majesty being made acquainted with it by the Bishop of London, Order was given for calling the Printers into the High-Commission, whereupon Evidence of the Fact, the whole Impression was called in, and the Printers deeply fined, as they justly merited. With some part of this Fine Laud caused a fair Greek Character to be provided, for publishing such Manuscripts as Time and Industry should make ready for the Public view.
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- Wicked Bible on free public display in British Library, London
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- Archbishop William Laud succeeded Archbishop Abbott in 1633.
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- "Bonhams : BIBLE, IN ENGLISH, AUTHORIZED VERSION [The Holy Bible: Containing the Old Testament and the New], THE 'WICKED BIBLE', 2 parts in 1 vol., Robert Barker... and by the assignes of John Bill, 1631". www.bonhams.com.
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- Ingelbart, Louis Edward. Press Freedoms. A Descriptive Calendar of Concepts, Interpretations, Events, and Courts Actions, from 4000 B.C. to the Present, Greenwood Publishing 1987, ISBN 0-313-25636-5