Finis, 2022

[The Bible,] Geneva version, published by Christopher Barker, London, circa 1580-1588. Collection of the Jonathan Clark House, photo credit: Reed Perkins, 2022.

What a year!

Finis. The End. Today is December 31, the last day of a long and eventful 2022. I’m not up to the task of summarizing all the highs and lows of the past year. I’ll leave that to others.

But I thought recalling one special summer day at the Clark House might make a nice valediction at the close of the old year and the beginning of the new. And for me, without question, the best day for the Clark House this year was July 23, 2022, the day we celebrated the generous donation of the historic Bonniwell family Bible and papers.

Left to right: family historian & author George B. Bonniwell, JCH Friends president Linda Chay, JCH executive director Dana Hansen, donor & Bonniwell descendant Kendalyne Gentile, Cedarburg Youth Historian McKenna Chay, JCH co-curators Nina Look & Fred Derr, and JCH historian Reed Perkins at Bonniwell Bible donation event, JCH Museum, July 23, 2022. Photo credit: Jean Hill.

What a book!

I’ve already written several posts about the Bonniwell Bible and its significance to the Jonathan Clark House Museum and the history that we share with our visitors. If you need to catch up, you might enjoy starting with these 2022 CHH posts:

The Bonniwell Bible comes home to Mequon
The Bonniwell Bible — taking a closer look and
The Bonniwell Bible’s provenance or, Who Owned It & When?

I am in the process of photographing and cataloging all the handwritten inscriptions in the Bonniwell Bible. Many of these inscriptions confirm Bonniwell family names and birth, marriage and death dates and places. Some of the inscriptions provide previously-missing information about similar family events. Other inscriptions give clues to the ownership (provenance) of this Bible before it came into the Bonniwell family. And the construction of the physical book itself is beginning to yield information about the history of this Bible and its role in home—and possibly public—worship and family life in 17th- through 19th-century England and North America. There’s a lot to discover and interpret.

For example

Our first illustration (top) shows a detail from the final page of the second of the “Two right profitable and fruitfull Concordances, or large and ample Tables Alphabeticall” [sic]. The complete graphic, as printed around 1580-1588, looks like this:

[The Bible,] Geneva version, published by Christopher Barker, London, circa 1580-1588. Collection of the Jonathan Clark House, photo credit: Reed Perkins, 2022.

If we take a closer look, there’s quite a bit of information here. Starting from the top:

Finis. “The End,” a middle-English usage derived from Latin.

ECCLVS. 24.39 & 33.16 Two Bible text citations to Ecclesiasticus, one of the books of the Apocrypha. Many modern protestant Bibles omit the Apocrypha. The Bonniwell’s Geneva translation includes the complete Old Testament and New Testament with the books of the Apocrypha, plus the “Two right profitable and fruitfull Concordance” sections and a (incomplete) copy of the Metrical Psalms as translated by Sternhold and Hopkins. I have to check our Bible to confirm the text for these citations; some later editions divide and number these verses differently.

An additional comment, probably also from Ecclesiasticus (some modern editions cite this as Ecclus. 39:24) follows the two citations, In modern English, it reads:

Behold how that I have not laboured for my self only, but for all them that seek wisdom and knowledge.

This is followed by Christopher Barker’s “large” printer’s device.

Barker’s device

In an earlier post, I first noted that Barker’s “printer’s device”—a sort of “corporate logo” of the Elizabethan Era—is found on several pages of our Bible. The one I first noticed was simpler than the one after the concordances. That first device was placed at the end of the Book of Malachi, the last book of the Old Testament and looks like this:

[The Bible,] Geneva version, published by Christopher Barker, London, circa 1580-1588. Collection of the Jonathan Clark House, photo credit: Kendalyne Gentile, 2022.

Based on this version of Barker’s device, and other bibliographic resources, I had to assume that our book was printed in London no earlier than 1580 and possibly as late as 1620, by either Christopher Barker, or his associates, or his son and final successor, Robert Barker.

But this subsequent version of Barker’s device—below the “Finis.” at the end of the two concordances—includes additional information that allows us to narrow the date of our Bible’s publication.

Below Barker’s woodcut, we find: Imprinted at London by Christopher Barker, Printer to the Queenes Maiestie [i.e., Majesty]

This is followed by the Latin phrase: Cum priuilegio Regiae Maiestatis.

This indicated that Barker had the unique “privilege” or monopoly granted by Her Royal Majesty, Queen Elizabeth I, to print Bibles in England at that time. The sources I’ve consulted so far1 indicate that Barker only used his device, with this phrasing, until 1588. In that year Christopher Barker passed the printing of the Bible to his associates and they added a different (“Associates of…”) text below the woodcut of Barker’s device. And as Barker printed his first Blackletter editions of the Geneva Bible in 1580, we can now date the printing of our Bonniwell family Bible, with reasonably certainty, to the years 1580-1588.

There is much more to discover

We are learning more about—and from—the Bonniwell family Bible every day. The history of the book’s publication and provenance are, indeed, fascinating. But the most important information—for the story of the Clark House and for Mequon history—lies in the manuscript inscriptions. For example? Here’s what all of this last page looks like:

[The Bible,] Geneva version, published by Christopher Barker, London, circa 1580-1588. Collection of the Jonathan Clark House, photo credit: Reed Perkins, 2022.

Surrounding Barker’s device we find inscriptions recording the births of brothers Henry Vinall and Alfred Tibbett Bonniwell, along with records of Alfred’s baptism in Chatham [Kent, England] and tragic death [in Wisconsin] in 1895.

An inscription in the upper left margin suggests that these birth and christening details were “wrote [on the] 22st Janry 1833.” By 1833 the Bonniwells were scattered between New York City and one or more towns and cities in the Hudson River valley. More research may tell us who wrote these inscription, and when, which will add to our understanding of the Bonniwell Bible’s provenance and history in the United States.

Finis.

Finis? Not hardly.

Stay tuned for much more about Clark House history—and the Bonniwell Bible—in 2023 and beyond.

Thanks for reading, and a very Happy New Year! to you all.

________________________

NOTES:

  1. I have used a variety of sources for my preliminary researches into the Bonniwell Bible. I have been relying on two books in particular; both are available as free online pdfs:

    British and Foreign Bible Society. Library, Historical Catalog of the Printed Editions of Holy Scripture in the Library of the British and Foreign Bible Society, Vol. I.—English, Darlow, T. H. and H. F. Moule compilers, London, 1913. (aka “Darlow & Moule”)

    McKerrow, Ronald B., Printers’ & Publishers’ Devices in England & Scotland 1485 – 1640, London, 1913.

    I have not yet seen Herbert’s 1968 revision of Darlow & Moule; it should definitely be consulted at some point as we try and date the Bonniwell Bible:

    A. S. Herbert, T. H. Darlow, H. F. Moule,. Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible 1525–1961. London: British and Foreign Bible Society; New York: American Bible Society, 1968

    These websites have been useful as well:
    AABA Glossary: https://www.abaa.org/glossary
    Quill & Brush Glossary of Book Terms: https://www.qbbooks.com/glossary.php
    BYU Early English Handwriting: https://script.byu.edu/Pages/the-english-documents-pages/the-english-documents
    Folger Library on Secretary Hand: https://collation.folger.edu/2017/07/i-learned-to-read-secretary-hand/

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