BIBLE, English, New Testament. The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Translated from the Original Greek: and with the former Translations diligently compared and revised . Boston: Printed for John Boyle in Marlborough-Street, 1780.
8o (177 x 104 mm). 354,  pages. Woodcut ornamental border on title, a few woodcut headpieces. (Title and following leaf with 60 x 8 mm strip at fore-margin torn, affecting four letters in imprint, several names on verso and several letters in 17 lines on A2 ; first quire loose, corner of final leaves rounded, affecting a few page numerals.) Contemporary calf (worn, head of spine chipped, one rear corner chewed, front inner hinge broken); red half morocco clamshell case. Provenance: Polly Potter (one flyleaf with ink inscription: "Polly Potter Her Book Bought at Newport Rhode Island December 30th AD 1782 Price Five Shillings." In addition, the front and rear flyleaves record extensive genealogical information relating to the Potter and Saunders families. Despite flaws, a complete copy in a contemporary binding, IN COMPLETELY UNSOPHISTICATED CONDITION.
A UNIQUE, PREVIOUSLY UNRECORDED 1780 BOSTON PRINTING OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, TWO YEARS BEFORE AITKEN'S PHILADELPHIA BIBLE. A MAJOR DISCOVERY IN AMERICAN BIBLE IMPRINTS
English trade laws prohibited American printers from issuing Bibles in America during the colonial period, so it was not until the outbreak of the Revolution that any such imprints began to appear. Even after the importation of Bibles from Britain and Holland was disrupted by the Revolution, no complete American English-language Bible appeared until 1782, when Philadelphia printer Robert Aitken completed his well-known edition. Prior to Aitken's Bible, only six American printings of the New Testament alone are extant (including the present edition). The first two were published in 1777 and 1779, while the other four were all produced in 1780. Only one copy of each of these New Testaments survives, several of them imperfect. Given these circumstances, this discovery of this previously unrecorded Boston edition constitutes a highly significant addition to the known canon of early American biblical imprints.
The bibliography of the American editions of scripture has long been the subject of exhaustive efforts. E.B. O'Callaghan's List of Editions of the Holy Scripture Printed in America (1861) listed three New Testaments prior to the Aitken Bible. A century later, Margaret T. Hills' The English Bible in America (1961) added just two more extant editions. Since Hills' work and the advent of the very exhaustive North American Imprints Project, no new editions have been located until now. Nor have any new copies been added to the editions already located by Hills. The discovery, at this late date, of a totally unrecorded edition, is indubitably of considerable importance.
The publisher, John Boyle, was active in Boston as both printer and bookseller from 1769 to the late 1790s. Although he was generally a minor figure in Boston's highly active printing and publishing circles, he remains one of the few publishers who remained active in Boston throughout the Revolution. "In May 1774 he formed a partnership with Margaret Draper, [Richard Draper's] widow, and helped her publish the Massachusetts Gazette through August of that year. Boyle felt uneasy being associated with a Tory newspaper, so he divorced himself from it by dissolving the partnership" (Franklin). Later Boyle seems to have acted as publisher and bookseller, not a printer. Until the discovery of this unique New Testament, his most important imprints were two editions of Phillis Wheatley's elegy on George Whitefield and John Wise's Vindication of the Government of the New England Churches. It is unclear who printed the work for Boyle. Six printers were active in Boston in 1780, and the Testament might have been printed by any of them, although probably not by T. and J. Fleet, who produced their own edition that year.
The final leaf carries a highly interesting catalogue of "Books Sold by John Boyle, in Marlborough-Street, in Boston," dated 15 January 1781 and listing about 120 titles, both British and American imprints, in a broad range of subjects including "English quarto Bibles" and "Testaments by the groce, dozen, or separate."
Benjamin Franklin V, Boston Publishers, and Booksellers, 1640-1800, 1980, pp.56-57; P. Marion Simms, The Bible in America, 1936, pp. 110-41; O'Callaghan, pp. 30-31; I. Thomas, History of Printing in America, 1970, pp. 170, 175.