Apr 142012

In my last post I gave details of the smaller pocket-sized cases for handy utensils used in the Georgian era. Today is for larger, grander, containers!

On its informative and fascinating site The Georgian Index  has a picture of an eighteenth century travelling box or nécessaire. For some reason I cannot insert a direct link to it , but it is  at http://www.georgianindex.net/travel/necessarie.html













It is described as containing glass bottles, tweezers, a pearl-handled sponge, a spoon, bodkin and scissors. And of course it is topped by a travel clock!

As I have mentioned in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman my ancestor Richard Hall was a great fan of the jeweller and entrepreneur James Cox. He was his exact contemporary (they were born a couple of years apart and died within a few months of each other). Richard frequently  records that he ‘took tea’ with James and as a regular visitor to  his museum at Spring Gardens there is every likelihood that he would have seen this piece. It is described as being  a nécessaire incorporating “an automatom watch, dating from the 1770’s  with a moss agate case mounted in gold and set with diamonds, rubies, and emeralds; silver; and mirror glass; dial: white enamel, with frame pavé set with paste jewels. It is held at the Metroplitan Museum of Art.


The Royal Collection also holds an example of a James Cox nécessaire, with the explanation: When the lid is opened, a watch and automaton are revealed. The watch face is surrounded by an outer circle set with ten jewelled roundels; these spin individually around the watch face as the outer circle rotates. This appears to have been a favoured device and is found on other watches and clocks by Cox, including examples sent to the Emperor of China. A painted chinoiserie scene hides the back of the mechanism. Below this a second compartment is fitted with various cosmetic bottles and implements. Agate, gold, silver, coloured paste, pearls, glass, gouache are all used in this piece. It became part of the Royal Collection when Queen Mary gave it to her husband (George V) on Christmas Day 1925.







Another example found in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.The description is that it is made of gold and agate by French watchmaker Joseph Martineau senior, who was active in London between 1744 and 1770.







But the heyday of the necessaire was surely in the Victorian era. The boxes developed into beautifully engineered cases which held a multitude of fine things, which were intended to be used rather than merely looked at. Lift the lid on this splendid coromandel and brass case and the sides automatically open out and the front drops down to reveal a positive cornucopia of goodies – cut glass scent bottles, brushes, mirrors, sewing implements and indeed everything a lady could possibly want on her journey right down to a screw-in hook (in case your host did not provide one for your silk peignoir on the back of the door



The containers reveal such delights as a swans down powder puff, while the mirrors include concave and convex  ones as well as plain. All are crested and the cabinet even has its own case – it comes in a leather box with its owner’s initials. Almost certainly it was made by William Neal in London shortly after 1880.

Rather more about this beautiful piece appears if you click on the link to the ever-fascinating Two Nerdy History Girls site.

These travel case developed throughout the Nineteenth Century until we get to the splendid example, with a Titanic connection, which appears on the Hampton Antiques website at http://www.hamptonantiques.co.uk/fisher-coromandel-silver-vanity-box-1.html. Why the Titanic?  Because this outstanding box was given by Joseph Bruce Ismay  as a present to his wife Florence Schieffelin. It’s possible that the box was commissioned as a wedding anniversary present. Ismay was a  director of the White Star Line of steamships (famous for building the Titanic) and the box was commissioned from the New York department store of B. Altman & Co.

Joseph Bruce Ismay, known as Bruce, was the highest ranking official from the White Star Line to survive the tragedy which occurred precisely a hundred years ago. The box is made from thuya wood and instead of the more usual  brass protective edges it is bordered with silver gilt. More information on this superb piece can be obtained from Hampton Antiques.


Apr 122012

Google the word ‘nécessaire’ and you come up with two rather different types of item, both of which got their name from the fact that they were ‘necessary’ when travelling.

The first items are simple containers for everyday utensils such as cutlery or sewing materials. In the early part of the Eighteenth Century it was not uncommon to find that your host expected you to bring your own table implements and it was really only in the second half of the century that people splashed out on knives and forks for the entire assembled company. In particular, if you called at an inn it would be prudent to have with you your own set of feeding implements. The cutlery would be held in a small case or clasp, such as in this French example from the late 1600’s. It is described as a ‘Nécessaire de bouche de chasseur’ and contained three items namely  a bodkin, a knife, and a two-pronged fork. These are elaborately engraved as can be seen from this picture, shown courtsey of Expertissim at their site at http://en.expertissim.com/.



Another example of a small portable cases is this Georgian nécessaire on the left containing  a sewing kit, pocket knife and pencil, taken from the Lang Antiques website at www.langantiques.com In a way it was the Swiss Army knife of its day and in time these handy and beautifully ornate containers evolved into modern handbags – something in which you could keep make-up, cigarettes etc.  On the right is a splendid Stafforshire-ware enamel  nécessaire described as being ‘painted with figures by a lakeside palace, a courting couple and floral bouquets, reserved against a pink ground with raised white and gilt ornament, gilt-metal mounts, the interior with five various implements including a fruit knife with steel blade, an ivory notelet, a pencil and a folding ruler’ (extract and picture courtesy of Carters Price Guide to Antiques). Other containers were associated with writing implements, sewing kits etc.

I also came across this delightful necessaire (or étui ) show-cased on the site called Possessions of a Lady’

Fine and beautiful as these things are, they are in a different league from the other nécessaires – the travel cases which are more like a portmanteau, and which evolved in the 18th and 19th centuries. More of those in my next post!

Apr 092012

One of the handbills collected by Richard Hall was for a ‘Panopticon‘ (literally, ‘seeing everywhere’). It was made in the earlier part of the century by Christopher Pinchbeck, a well-known London jeweller and clock-maker. As explained in yesterday’s post it was Pinchbeck who discovered an alloy which was used in the trade as a substitute for gold (three parts zinc, four parts copper). As such his name has become synonymous with something cheap and worthless, a fake, but back in the 1700’s it was seen as a useful way of making cheaper ‘costume jewellery’ – more appropriate for taking on journeys. He also dabbled in musical automata and exhibited these at his premises at Fleet Street near the Leg Tavern. After he died in 1732, and after an interval of perhaps twenty years, his younger son Edward used the Panopticon as a travelling show, charging visitors a shilling to see the curiosity. Here is the handbill :

The panopticon was three sided: one showed a country fair, with musicians and blacksmiths moving in time; the second showed  a ‘beautiful landskip‘ (i.e. landscape) with a flowing river and huntsmen; and the third was a ship-yard with labourers working on ships to a musical accompaniment. The actual description is rather more elaborate:

First Side

“In the first scene is the clock, which besides telling the time shows the high tide times in 3o different sea ports, with the Moon’s age, its increase and decrease, full and change, and underneath which is a representation of a Country Fair with a vast variety of Motions too tedious to mention…a Concert of Musick in a tent, of which all the figures have their true actions agreeable to the several airs with which the ear is entertained….

Second side

A great variety of coaches, carts, chaises and horsemen ascending and descending hills and altering their positions, a water mil with the water running from it, swans fighting and feathering themselves, dog and duck hunting ,with several other whimsical motions…the upper picture is a smith’s shop with men grinding their tools, blowing their bellows, planishing at the anvil, working at the forge etc.

Third side

In the last scene the lower picture represents a ship-carpenters yard with a distant view of the sea. In the yard are workmen corking, carving, sawing in the pit, carrying planks from a pile to the ship….

Note: it plays several pieces of music on various instruments, composed by the best Masters; as Handel, Albononi etc, and imitates an Aviary of birds”.

This panopticon would have been just the sort  of thing Richard Hall adored – very similar to the be-jewelled automata he subsequently visited, over and over again, at James Cox’s museum in Spring Gardens in the 1770s and 1780s.

But this was not the only panopticon being discussed in the eighteenth century – the name was given to a very different item for ‘seeing everywhere’.

And what was this other Panopticon? Well, that was the name given by the philosopher and social reformer Jeremy Bentham to his concept of a prison where warders could keep prisoners in their sight at all times, without the prisoners knowing that they were being observed. There was a central viewing room, with all the cells constructed around it in a circle. With this ability to ‘spy unseen’ Bentham  described the Panopticon as “a new mode of obtaining power of mind over mind, in a quantity hitherto without example”. He reckoned the design would be equally beneficial in schools, asylums and poor-houses. For the latter years of the Eighteenth Century he peddled his ideas for this prison, at one point being awarded £2000 by William Pitt to refine his plans. Land was acquired for a National Penitentiary at Millbank but a change of Prime Minister meant that the plans were shelved, re-opened, and then shelved again. Bentham was devastated, having invested years of his time and a considerable amount of his own money upon the scheme. He submitted a claim for £700,000 compensation for his troubles! In the end he settled for compensation of £23,000. It left Bentham with a burning sense of the ‘sinister injustice’  over what he was convinced was a deliberate ploy by the ‘powers that be’ to thwart him and to undermine what was in the public interest. This influenced many of his ideas for social reform.

A National Penitentiary was eventually built at Millbank, but not following Bentham’s design. His ideas have however influenced many aspects of prison design, particularly in Spain, Poland and the United States. Arguably some of the features are to be found at Pentonville Prison in North London. The only true ‘Panopticon‘ is the  Presidio Modelo in Cuba, constructed in 2005 on a small island off the coast, but apparently abandoned shortly afterwards.


I cannot help thinking that Mr Pinchbeck‘s Panopticon was a lot more pleasing on the eye – and rather more fun!

Apr 082012

pinch-beck       noun   1. An alloy of zinc and copper used as imitation gold.     2. A cheap imitation.

                         adjective   1. Made of pinchbeck.    2. Imitation; spurious.


It all seems a bit unfair on Christopher Pinchbeck, the man who gave his name to a type of brass (an alloy of three parts zinc, four parts copper) used in the trade as a substitute for gold. As such his name has become synonymous with something cheap and worthless, a fake, but back in the 1700’s it was seen as a useful way of making cheaper ‘costume jewellery’ – more appropriate for taking on journeys. It filled a need – if you were travelling on roads where highwaymen were a risk, why take your finest jewellery with you when indistinguishable substitutes would serve your purpose?

Christopher Pinchbeck had been born in Clerkenwell but there is some doubt about the year. Some records suggest he was born in 1662 but his memorial plaque makes him eight years younger! Little is known about his early years but there is every chance that he studied on the continent, where there was a long tradition of musical automata.

Longcase clock by Christopher Pinchbeck

He ‘burst onto the scene’ in London when he was already in his forties, charging the astronomic fee of 700 guineas for one of his fancy instruments (per the London Courant, 1716). He moved to 33 John’s Lane, Clerkenwell and made watches and clocks, specialising in incredibly ornate and complicated astronomical instruments. With these he achieved considerable fame. The records describe how he ‘finished a fine musical clock, said to be a most exquisite piece of workmanship, and worth about fifteen hundred pounds and which is to be sent over to ye King of France ‘(Louis XIV). He also sent a ‘fine organ to ye Great Mogul, worth three hundred pounds.’

Plaque at 33 John's Lane

He also made more down-market trinkets and baubles from the eponymous alloy, holding a stall at Bartholomew Fair on at least one occasion. He made the watch cases out of Pinchbeck, thereby bringing the price down considerably, and he sold them at places like Southwark Fair. There was no attempt at deception: he described them as being ‘chased in so curious a manner as not to be distinguished by the nicest eye from real gold’. Indeed it is quite possible that when Richard Hall describes buying a ‘metal watch’ for each of his sons he was in fact buying Pinchbeck time-pieces rather than gold equivalents. The word only became a pejorative term in subsequent years when unscrupulous traders manufactured inferior quality products and passed them off as gold.

Whereas his younger son Edward took over the family business when his father died (and apparently was the one entrusted with the secret of the Pinchbeck alloy), the elder son (also called Christopher) went out on his own and traded as a clockmaker from a shop in Cockspur Lane. He became a particular favourite of the Court and was known as ‘Clockmaker to the King’.

In 1762 he devised a self-acting pneumatic brake for preventing accidents to the men employed in working wheel cranes, for which the Society of Arts awarded him a gold medal.

In 1766 he apparently procured for George III the very first pocket watch made with a compensation curb, from Ferdinhand Rerthoud. In 1781 he was elected as an Honorary Freeman of the Clockmakers’ Company, and later went on to become President of the Smeaton Society (then known as the Society of Engineers). Describing himself as a ‘toymaker and mechanician’ he invented various items such as the self-extinguishing candle stick. He took out three patents and in addition he also supplied a complicated four-sided astronomical clock to George III in a case made by Sir William Chambers. This was in 1765. It is still in the Music Room at Buckingham Palace, along with a very similar one made by Fardley Norton.

Christopher (the younger) died at Cockspur Street in 1783 at the age of 73 and is buried at St Martin’s-in-the-Fields. And for more modern watch aficionados, the Pinchbeck name is still carried on by the watchmaking company of Harold Pinchbeck (see http://www.haroldpinchbeck.co.uk/)

And why this post on Pinchbeck? Because tomorrow’s blog is about the Pantopticon, a remarkable piece of automata made by him, and which my ancestor Richard Hall went to see in the 1770’s.

Apr 062012

There is no delicate way of putting it: my ancestor had problems with wind. He diarised ways of avoiding it (basically by not eating what he called ‘flatulums’ i.e. beans). And he wrote down endless recipes for remedying the problem once started.

One of his favourite cures was given him by his friend Mr Stead. “For Oppression in the Stomach: about five grains of Rhubarb or as much as will lay upon the head of a silver 2d, with an equal quantity of nutmeg, every other night.”

A slightly more complicated cure was offered by Dr Smith to Mr Warne, who passed it on to Richard for ‘a Windy Complaint’

“Two oz. best Jesuits bark

Half oz. Black Ginger

Half oz. Gentian Root

Half oz. orange peel

Steep these in one pint Mountain and half a pint Brandy. Shake the bottle once a day at least, let it stand for 5 or 6 days, decant off the Clear and put half the quantity of Wine and Brandy. Let it stand 12 or 14 days and then strain off the whole of the liquor and put it to the other.Take a wine Glass in two Glasses of Water once or twice a day.”

And Jesuits Bark? Well this is the answer from Wikipedia:

Flower of the Peruvian Bark tree

“Jesuit’s Bark, also called Peruvian Bark, is the historical name of the most celebrated specific remedy for all forms of malaria. It is so named because it was obtained from the bark of several species of the genus Cinchona…. that have been discovered at different times and are indigenous in the Western Andes of South America and were first described and introduced by Jesuit priests who did missionary work in Peru. Other terms referring to this preparation and its source were “Jesuit’s Tree”, “Jesuit’s Powder” and “Pulvis Patrum”.

Richard on the other hand refers to Peruvian bark as being “grown in Quitto and is the size of a Cherry Tree bearing a long reddish flower from whence arises a pod with a kernel like an almond; but the fruit does not seem to have the same virtues as the bark”

What does that all add up to? Quinine. But hey, who cares about a little flatulence if you’ve just knocked back a potent concoction of wine and brandy, stewed over a few herbs for three weeks. If that didn’t cause wind nothing would….

My ancestor Richard Hall was a hypochondriac who ‘enjoyed ill health’. His diaries are full of his ailments and remedies, and many of these are set out in The Journal of a Georgian Gentleman.

Finally, and inevitably, a Gillray cartoon entitled ‘Taking Physick’ showing the unfortunate effects of taking laxatives. The facial grimace says all there is to say about the bitter medicine! Two more bottles remain on the mantle-piece The man hasn’t even bothered to adjust his clothing since his last trip to the chamber pot!! Picture courtesy of the Lancashire Gallery at http://www.lancashiregallery.co.uk


Apr 042012

A headstone in Kensal Green cemetery in London states that the grave contains the remains of “Dr James Barry, Inspector General of Hospitals. Died 26 July 1865. Aged 70 years”. A somewhat bare description of a colourful life, and one which speaks volumes about prejudice and the determination to succeed two centuries ago.

Barry had been born in County Cork in 1795. Mother was Mary Anne, who was the sister to the artist James Barry (a somewhat well-connected professor of painting at the Royal Academy). Father (Jeremiah) was a green-grocer. Jeremiah died when the child was young, leaving mother and child in dire financial straits. The youngster displayed considerable academic skill and announced a desire to qualify as a doctor. Which is where the prejudice came in; for the young James was in fact a girl, christened Margaret Ann Bulkley, and in those days there was a complete embargo on women becoming doctors.

Headstone of Dr James Barry Image www.findagrave.com/

Using the family connections, which included a General Miranda from Venezuela and also the 11th Earl of Buchan, Margaret adopted her uncle’s name, caught the ferry to Scotland, and in 1809 enrolled as a boy at the School of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, aged 14. The idea was that (s)he would qualify as a doctor and then go to Venezuela under the patronage and protection of General Miranda, but that part of the plan failed when the Spanish authorities threw the good General in prison, where he died in 1816.

Newly qualified, Dr James Barry decided to continue the  male masquerade  and served a six-month stint as an apprentice surgeon at St Thomas’s Hospital. In 1813 she joined the British Army medical corps, as a man. Barry was posted to the Cape of Good Hope where she befriended the Governor, Lord Charles Somerset. Possibly Somerset knew of Dr Barry’s true identity since he too was a friend of the Earl of Buchan.  The Governor provided Barry with private apartments at his residence, and before long rumours started  to circulate that Dr Barry and Lord Charles were involved in an ‘unnaturally close’ relationship. These rumours led to a Royal Commission being established to investigate their scandalous relationship. Somerset returned to England and Barry was later exonerated.

Right from the start of her army career Barry stood out as a somewhat eccentric ‘male’. She spent her nights with a black poodle called Psyche, and kept a goat with her at all times so that she could drink its milk. She refused to eat meat and was a teetotaller – but one who advocated bathing in wine! She also rode around wearing full dress uniform, carrying a cavalry sword. She acquired a black manservant who was to remain in her service for half a century. (Apparently one of the servant’s jobs each day was to lay out half a dozen towels to be used like bandages to hide her curves and broaden her shoulders).

Dr Barry was a fiery and bombastic red-head who had a reputation for being prickly: frequently taunted for being effeminate and for having a high pitched voice Barry responded with angry outbursts. She compensated for her lack of stature (she was five foot tall in her stocking-ed feet) by wearing three inch risers in her shoes, and wore over-sized clothing. Anyone getting too personal in their remarks was likely to be challenged to a duel – reportedly she fought on several occasions and is believed to have been injured in one and reportedly shot an opponent in another. Unbelievably, the dashing young doctor even nurtured a reputation as a ladies’ man – perhaps to deflect attention.

Her irascible temper meant that advancement in her career was frequently disrupted; she was court-martialled on at least one occasion, and regularly fell foul of her superiors because of her insubordination. Her saving grace was that she was an exceptional surgeon, performing the first successful Cesarean section on the continent of Africa in which both mother and baby survived. This despite the fact that the operation was performed on a kitchen table….! (The baby was named James Barry Hertzog, and a descendant went on to become Prime Minister of South Africa for the fifteen years leading up to the outbreak of the Second World War).

She campaigned constantly against unsanitary medical practices and against over-crowding in hospitals;  she instituted rigid controls on poor hygiene and introduced radical treatment for leprosy and tropical diseases. By doing this she transformed the hospitals in which these diseases were treated and achieved remarkable results. She then applied to go to the Crimea to see battlefield conditions at first hand. The Army declined her request, sending her instead to Corfu where she left her post and went anyway. Having reached the Crimea she met Florence Nightingale, who pronounced that ‘he’ was a brute and “….the most hardened creature I ever met throughout the Army.” They didn’t get on at all, largely because Barry pulled no punches in criticising the poor hygiene standards of the ‘Lady of the Lamp’ and in the over-crowded conditions which existed in her hospital at Scutari. The mortality rates were horrific, and Barry was appalled.

Barry’s prowess as a doctor was  reflected in the fact that her own hospital had the best survival rate of any hospital during the Crimean War.

In time Barry served in garrisons from Africa to the Caribbean, and from Mauritius to St Helena. In 1857 she was posted to Canada. Having achieved the rank of Inspector General of Hospitals Barry was forced to retire because of ill health in 1864, and failed to be rewarded with the traditional knighthood which that status would normally have earned. Presumably she had upset too many people along the way – been arrested, demoted, or gone absent without leave on too many occasions.

She returned to Britain with her loyal house-servant but caught dysentery the following year. Knowing that she was dying she  gave strict instructions that no post mortem was to be carried out. But when she died her body had to be laid out for burial. The astonished char woman who was called in to wash the body was named Sophia Bishop. She soon realized things were ‘not as they should be’ – that the corpse was in fact ‘a whole woman’ and one whose stretch marks suggested had actually had a child. (This perhaps explains an absence of a year in around 1819, when she reputedly went to Mauritius and had a still-born child, possibly by Lord Charles Somerset).

Sophia kept quiet until after the funeral, and then her comments  were hushed up, since the army wanted to avoid a scandal, and the true story remained hidden from view for a century.

 Dr Barry and John the  faithful manservant in 1862.

It is incredible to think of someone spending her entire adult life in deception; she was the first woman in this country to qualify and practice as a medical doctor, and she ‘pulled the wool over the eys of the Army authorities’ for nearly half a century. I am torn between admiration for her sheer guts and determination, and respect for the loyalty of her devoted servant John. He returned to Jamaica after Barry died, and apparently never uttered a word about what had happened. You don’t get that sort of loyalty from staff nowadays…

Errata: I am grateful to Cobus Bester for pointing out an error in the post as originally drafted – the  General JBM Herzog who went on to become Prime Minister was born in 1876 and was therefore presumably the son (?) of the man born by Cesarean section.

Apr 022012

In February this year the Royal Mail brought out a series of stamps under the heading of “Britons of Distinction” and one of the stamps, for use with first class post, honours the installation by Thomas Newcomen of his first working steam engine. It was installed at a coalmine near Dudley Castle in Staffordshire in 1712

So, what of Thomas the Man? He was Dartmouth-born (probably around 24th February 1663) and lived until 5th August 1729. In other words he died when my ancestor Richard Hall was just a few months old. The link to Richard is that Newcomen is buried in Bunhill Burial Grounds – as are Richard Hall´s father, mother and step-mother. In addition Newcomen, like Hall, was a devout Baptist and like Richard, a close friend of Dr Gill the great Baptist theologian.

The young Thomas Newcomen was in all likelihood apprenticed as a blacksmith in Dartmouth, Devon, where he made tools, nails and other iron goods for sale in the Dartmouth area. As a local he would have been aware of the flooding problems faced by tin and coal mine owners in the counties of Devon and Cornwall and he determined to do something about it. Little is known of his early experiments and almost certainly he borrowed heavily from the ideas of Savery (to the extent of never patenting his own works, yet paying a licence fee to Savery´s estate for working under his patent). But that is not to say that his developments were not crucial in making the his steam powered beam engine an effective means of lifting water from flooded mines. Around seventyfive of his machines were installed in his lfetime, but over the ensuing half century hundreds more were installed, the length and breadth of England and in many places in Europe. His machines were never particularly efficient – later modifications and improvements by James Watt and others made a huge difference to the performance of the pumps, but it was at least a start, and a very significant one.

The tri-centennial celebrations include refurbishing works in Dartmouth to the Newcomen Engine House – one of the few places in the country where there is still an original Newcomen engine to be seen. The town is also launching a new beer – the Newcomen Atmospheric Ale.


So three centuries on from what was a very significant step in the birth of the Industrial Revolution: a toast to Thomas Newcomen, one of Devon´s finest!

Apr 012012

Anyone who has noticed my inability to type (or to remember to use spell-check) may think it is a bit rich that my post is on biblical errors. I just find it amusing that certain editions have achieved notoriety because of typos and errors in translation.

One of Richard Hall’s Bibles (which I still have) was the sixteenth century Geneva Bible, often known as the Breeches Bible because it suggests in Genesis that “they sowed figge-tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches.” (The King James Version suggests ‘aprons’ – most others refer to ‘coverings’).


The Royal Collection © 2011,

In practice the Geneva was not Richard’s favourite Bible – that honour went to his Pasham Bible, printed in 1776 which he bequeathed specifically in his will. It was particulalry well-regarded because of its accuracy and as far as I know does not contain typos. It is certainly quite rare – I have found one on sale at Abe Books (a snip at £230 ) and this rather fine one, bound in tortoiseshell, in the Royal Library.




Looking up the history of Bibles leads to some rather amusing oddities with splendid nick-names :

• “Bug Bible”: Myles Coverdale’s 1535 Bible was known as the “Bug Bible” because Psalms 91:5 read: “Thou shall not nede to be afrayed for eny bugges by night”. In Middle English, the word “bugge” meant a “spectre that haunts” This use of the word “bug” was repeated in the 1539 Great Bible and in Matthew’s Bible, 1551.

• “Treacle Bible”: (Beck’s Bible): In the 1549 edition of the Great Bible, Jeremiah 8:22 was translated “Is there no tryacle [treacle] in Gilead?” Modern translations usually have “balm” or “medicine” instead. In Early Modern English, “treacle” could mean “a cure-all” as well as “molasses.”

• “Place-makers’ Bible” 1562: the second edition of the Geneva Bible, Matthew 5:9 reads “Blessed are the placemakers: for they shall be called the children of God”; it should read “peacemakers”.

In its chapter heading for Luke 21 it has “Christ condemneth the poor widow” rather than “commendeth“.

I have to feel sympathy for Messrs Baker  and Lucas, The Kings Printer, who in 1631 produced the  variant of the King James Bible  known as the “Wicked Bible” or “Adulterous Bible”( or, sometimes, “Sinner’s Bible”). Omitting the word ‘not’  when setting out the Fourth Commandment was unfortunate! In  Exodus 20:14  “thou shalt commit adultery” was a regrettable command! Later in Deuteronomy 5:24 ‘the lord our God hath shewed us his glory and his great asse’ did little to redress the view that perhaps the printers were a trifle slap-dash with the Word of the Lord!

In October 1632 the printers were fined £300 (perhaps £35,000 would be a modern equivalent)  and all copies were ordered to be destroyed. Most of the copies were recalled and only 11 copies are known to exist today.

Then we have:

• “Printers Bible” 1612: In some copies Psalm 119:161 reads “Printers have persecuted me without a cause” rather than “Princes have persecuted me…”

• “Sin On Bible”: 1716: John 8:11 reads “Go and sin on more” rather than “Go and sin no more”.

• “Vinegar Bible”: 1717: J. Baskett, Clarendon Press: The chapter heading for Luke 20 reads “The Parable of the Vinegar” instead of “The Parable of the Vineyard.” One reviewer called this particular edition “a Baskett full of errors,” because it contained literally hundreds of typographical errors It is therefore eminently collectable (one copy sold for $5,000 three years ago).

• “Murderer’s Bible” 1801: “Murmurers” is printed as “murderers”, making Jude 16 read: “These are murderers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling words, having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.”

• “Lions Bible” 1804: 1 Kings 8:19 reads “thy son that shall come forth out of thy lions”, rather than “loins”.

• “To-remain Bible” 1805: In Galatians 4:29 a proof-reader achieved unintended immortality having written  “to remain” in the margin, as an answer to whether a comma should be deleted. The note inadvertently became part of the text.

Not all the examples are all that ancient. Take the

• “Affinity Bible” 1927: I remember spending many an idle hour as a child, when I was required to sit through services in Church, reading such matters as the way to calculate Easter, and the table of consanguinity, stating what degrees of affinity were precluded from marriage. This 1927 Bible stated that  “A man may not marry his grandmother’s wife.” (Look, if my Granny wants to marry a woman, then dies, and I  want to marry her female partner why shouldn’t I?)! Besides, a quick look at my family tree suggests that rather a lot of Richard Hall’s immediate family married their aunts, cousins and quite close relatives. The gene pool would have been somehwat deeper if it had included Granny’s exes!

• “Owl Bible” 1944: which mistakenly refers to ‘owl husbands’ instead of ‘own husbands’

And please, I have no wish to enter into discussions about whether the Bible is accurate or true in all respects. I simply take malicious  delight in the mistakes of others….