The British Library holds one of the richest collections of Bibles printed before the 20th century. Examples are held from all corners of the Western world, and from every decade since Johann Gutenberg first produced his Latin Vulgate Bible in Mainz, Germany, during 1454 and 1455.
There is no single area within the Library where biblical texts are gathered together. They are instead dispersed throughout the collection, and need to be identified by using Explore the British Library or one of the other specialist catalogues and bibliographies mentioned on these pages.
This guide is intended for anyone wishing to consult printed Bibles or other biblical texts (e.g. psalters) at the British Library. It aims to illustrate the linguistic and chronological range of material held, and how best to gain access to it. Full bibliographical references for resources mentioned are given in the Selected Bibliography. References in square brackets, e.g. [C.9.d.3,4], are British Library shelfmarks (call numbers), and will be needed should you wish to consult any of the books. As with other early Western printed items, we recommend you work primarily in the Rare Books and Music Reading Room. Many early printed Bibles are now fragile, and others are difficult to handle owing to their large size. In some instances you may therefore be directed to work with printed, microform or digital alternatives in place of the originals.
Selection of early English printed Bibles from the private library of Thomas Grenville. Copyright © The British Library Board
We regret that it is not the policy of the British Library to provide valuations for any early printed books; for this we recommend you approach a specialist antiquarian book dealer.
A selection of reference tools to support the discipline of Bible Studies is provided in the Humanities Reading Room.
Other areas of this website relevant to the study of early Bibles include: