Guide to Family Bibles
As advances in nineteenth-century printing made Bibles more widely available, the family Bible became a domestic institution, a substantial book that might be displayed in the parlor. Families recorded births, marriages, deaths, prayers, and even recipes in such Bibles, which were often handed down to later generations. More than a century later, many of these older family Bibles still remain in private homes.
The Bibles at left represent some of the major nineteenth-century American Bible publishers; choose one to learn more. Publishers competed for the growing family Bible market with editions that included elaborate bindings, commentaries, illustrations, maps, blanks for family records, and more. The text for all of the Bibles shown here is the King James Bible, the pre-eminent English Protestant Bible of the day.
To learn about a specific edition, you may wish to consult Margaret T. Hills (ed.), The English Bible in America. Hills’s book provides information on thousands of individual American Bible editions, assigning each a “Hills number” that is commonly used by researchers.
A family Bible may have great personal or religious value, but most are not worth much as rare books. If you think you have an edition of some value, seek expert help. Libraries will not provide appraisals of books. Instead, you might check for a secondhand or antiquarian book dealer near you. The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America offers an online list.