Historic American Bibles

The diverse, often extremely rare, American copies of the King James Bible shown here offer a unique window on the American past, from the voyage of the Mayflower in 1620 to a 21st-century inauguration.

Some had famous owners or were used on special occasions. Others represent attempts by figures like Noah Webster and Thomas Jefferson to rework part or all of the King James Bible, although Webster’s edition was far more modest than Jefferson’s reinvention.

Also included are two very early American Bibles in other languages—Algonquin and German—that were printed in the American colonies long before the King James Bible. The King James Bible, which was the first English Bible printed in North America, was not published until after the United States declared its independence, in part because of the royal copyright. Publisher Robert Aitken produced the New Testament in 1777 and the King James Bible in 1782.

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