“God is Love”

21 02 2009

I bought a Bible yesterday. At $275, it is the most expensive single-volume Bible that I have ever purchased. It was printed in 1864 and, according to a handwritten inscription on the first page, it was gifted to a young man on the occasion of his 29th birthday in 1881. His name was Robert Alfred Hattersley and his anonymous mother wrote an inscription:

Teach the Scriptures and be wise

Robert Alfred Hattersley
Presented to him
By his Mother on his
29th Birthday,
December the 5th 1881

May the giver and the receiver
Meet in heaven
God is love

The following three pages present information as regards dates of births and deaths. Robert Hattersley died in 1885 at the age of 33. His wife, Ellen, died four years later, aged 36. Robert was survived by four sons and Ellen, after a second marriage, by another son born two years before her death. It would seem that the conveyor of this information was the eldest son, Charles Herbert Hattersley, who also saw fit to record his marriage to Rachel Elizabeth Hattersley and the birth of a child whom he named for himself. There is a bookmark (an empty envelope inscribed “Mum”, that I imagine once contained a birthday card), placed in the third chapter of the Gospel According to John. I can only assume that it is the famous sixteenth verse that prompted this placement, itself about the love of God.

Now this is all very pleasant but, I must say, the part that tickles me the most is the printed dedication to “THE MOST HIGH AND MIGHTY PRINCE JAMES” which, as it runs to over a page, I will not print here. I will, however, convey the first paragraph which, dripping and obsequious, strikes me as reminiscent of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s pathetic pampering of King Claudius at the end of the third act:

Great and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty’s Royal Person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our Sion, that upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have over-shadowed this Land, that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk; and that it should hardly be known, who was to direct the unsettled State; the appearance of Your Majesty, as of the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the Government established in Your Highness, and Your Hopeful Seed, by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with peace and tranquillity at home and abroad.

Oh, drip drip.

I find most interesting the continual capitalisation of all nouns and pronouns that refer to His Majesty’s Royal Person when compared with the lower-case pronouns that refer to God, himself. Indeed, the final (and lengthiest) paragraph, which contains all manner of suspected traducement by “Popish Persons” and “selfconceited Brethren”, presents the Bible to its patron, “Your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author of the work.”




5 responses

22 02 2009
Inga Leonora

Fantastic! I must be allowed to have a look at your newest acquisition! (I humbly retract earlier comments regarding the purchase and my previous suggestion that you misappropriated funds.)

I simply ADORE what the English did to Christianity! And the King James Version is my favourite version of the Bible. And for no less a reason than your last quote above; because James I of England did authorized it, and we’ve not spent the last 400 years debating whether or not his Majesty did or did not do so. We know He did, we have the proof. And several other documents that His Majesty also wrote Himself.

If God was the ‘principal Mover and Author of the work’ or any part thereof, then he should not have been so anonymously. He must be a simpleton (especially given his omnipotence) not to have followed His Majesty’s excellent example.

3 03 2009

Most interesting post. However, I am curious why you this volume was worth $275?

3 03 2009
Simon Holloway

Perhaps because I know nothing of the real value of books! But more likely because I am a sucker for old editions of things, and my activity in stores tends to redefine the whole concept of “impulse purchasing”. You are correct in what you suggest: it is most probably not ‘worth’ such a high sum ($172US). It does, however, look very attractive on my shelf…

For the record, I enjoyed your posts on the Valmadonna. Now, that’s a collection!

12 04 2009
Bob MacDonald

I just read John’s interview with you at Blogger of the Month – I like Nehemiah’s name but I don’t get much of a high from the books in that period.

It is curious that the 17th century had such a way with words that many still follow them as if God had written the Bible in English (let alone the preface). How do we get from ‘God is love’ to liturgical rules, the divine right of kings, and the submission of the people to the status quo? O my rebellious soul!

12 04 2009
Algernon Misanthrope

What a glorious post!

The cause for such an expensive book is probably due to how much older it is in comparison to most buildings in this fledgling colony.

And whilst the nauseating anal-licking To King James can get on one’s nerves, I do hesitate to say how wonderful to see a ruler capable of creating anything larger than a facbook profile page. Sure King James was a puritanical paranoid nut-job. But he was an educated puritanical paranoid nut-bar. And It hink that has to count towards something. Don’t you?

Algernon Misanthrope

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