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
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.”