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Verbum Sempiternum. The Third Edition, [sic] With Amendments. London: Printed for Tho. James…, 1701. (Adomeit B13)

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Biblia, or, A Practical Summary of ye Old & New Testaments. Lond.: Printed for R. Wilkin, 1728. (Adomeit B16)

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Bible du Petit Poucet, Ornée de 30 Jolies Figures. Paris: Saintin, [ ca. 1800?] (Adomeit C49)


Thumb Bibles
of Western Europe and America

Miniature editions of the Bible and Thumb Bibles form genres of their own among miniature books. The two differ in that miniature Bibles contain all or selections from one of the standard versions of the Bible. Separate psalters were also popular. Thumb Bibles, on the other hand, are paraphrases prepared chiefly for children. Notable among early printed miniature Bibles is the 1628/1629 Novum Testamentum Graecum of Jean Jannon, printed in la petite sédanoise, miniature Greek type of exceptional beauty. Thumb Bibles saw their earliest progenitors at the beginning of the seventeenth century in John Weever's An Agnus Dei (1601) and John Taylor's Verbum Sempiternum and Salvator Mundi (1614). Epitomes of the story of the Bible were intended to provide early religious instruction for children not yet thought old enough to address the Bible itself. John Taylor states, as reprinted in the earliest known American Thumb Bible (1765), "With care and pains out of the Sacred book, / This little Abstract for thee have took: / And with great reverence have I cull'd from thence, / All things that are of Greatest consequence." Of the earlier English Thumb Bibles, one of the most familiar and often encountered is The Bible in Miniature, or a Concise History of the Old and New Testaments, printed for E. Newbery in 1780. It is often found bound in red morocco, gilt, with "IHS" stamped in gilt on an oval black leather onlay at the center of each cover.

The little volumes were also popular on the continent, appearing in German under titles such as Biblia oder Inhalt und Kern gantzer h. Schrifft, and Dutch as Biblia ofte Inhoud en Kern der gantschen H. Schrift. French versions include the Sommaire de la Bible, and possibly the first usage of the word for "thumb" in connection with Thumb Bibles, Bible du Petit Poucet published in Paris circa 1800.

A common feature of Thumb Bibles is illustration, which varies from crude woodcuts to elegant engravings. In some, the emphasis on illustration went so far that they became miniature picture Bibles, such as Dess Alten [-Neuen] Testaments Mittler engraved by the sisters Christiana and Magdalena Küslin, German artists who worked in Switzerland.

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