“Lately I’ve started collecting old books that are famous for their misprints. There’s a world of irony in it. Bibles, in particular. I’ve never actually seen any of these in original editions, but back in the days when print was scarce, only one printing of the Bible was widespread at any given time, and people knew it by heart. Its mistakes became celebrated. In 1823 when the Old Testament appeared with the verse “And Rebekah arose with her camels” – instead of damsels – it was known as the Camel’s Bible. In 1804, the Lions Bible had sons coming forth from lions instead of loins, and in the Murderers’ Bible of 1801, the complainers in Jude 16 did not murmur, they murdered. In the Standing Fishes Bible, the fishermen must have looked on in such surprise when “the fish stood on the shore all the way from Engedi to Eneglaim.” There are dozens of these: the Treacle Bible, the Bear Bible, the Bug Bible, the Vinegar Bible. In the Sin-On Bible, John 5:14 exhorted the believers not to “sin nor more,” but to “sin on more!” Evol’s dog! Dog ho!
I can’t resist these precious Gospels. They lead me to wonder what Bible my father wrote in Africa. We came in stamped with such errors we can never know which ones made a lasting impression. I wonder if they still think of him standing tall before his congregation shouting, “Tata Jesus is bängala!”
I do. I think of him exactly that way. We are the balance of our damage and our transgressions. He was my father. I own half of his genes, and all of his history. Believe this: the mistakes are part of the story. I was born of a man who believed he could tell nothing but the truth, while he set down for all time the Poisonwood Bible.”
—The Poisonwood Bible