Rare, Pro-Adultery "Sinners' Bible" Heads to Auction

Bonhams / Bonhams

There are more than 780,000 words in the Bible, so it's understandable that no one might notice if one or two of those words were accidentally omitted during printing. Unless, of course, the omission happened to change the entire message of one of the Ten Commandments.

This was the case back in 1631, when royal printers Robert Barker and Martin Lucas lost their license and were fined £300 after mistakenly leaving out the word "not" in "Thou shall not commit adultery." According to Bonhams, the mistake was found a year later and almost all of the 1000 copies were recalled and burned. Only a handful are known to have survived, and one of them will be sold at auction next month, where it's expected to fetch between $15,000 and $23,000.

Forever known as the "Wicked Bible" or "Sinners' Bible," the book has become legendary over the past 384 years. Copies have been displayed at Cambridge University and the British Library in the past, and a few years ago another copy was listed for sale for $99,500.

But there may be more to this Bible's story. As Bonhams points out in its listing, the typo may not have been a typo at all: "It has also been suggested that the mistake was an act of sabotage, possibly perpetrated by Barker's rival Bonham Norton, to politically embarrass Barker."

To own this bizarre piece of literary (and religious) history, head over to the Bonhams website to register for the November 11 auction.