[HARRIS, Benjamin (d. ca 1716)]. The Holy Bible in Verse. [Boston: John Allen], 1717.
16o (87 x 57 mm). Woodcut title vignette of an open Bible and 10 woodcuts in text, see below. With running headline: "The Holy Bible, Epitomiz'd in Verse." (Lacking A1 [recto blank, verso with Introduction and sixteen lines of verse and catchword], and final blank D8, some browning and chipping at edges, corners rounded.) Inserted in old stencilled wrappers (some chipping at edges).
A SUPERB CHILDREN'S BIBLE, PRINTED IN BOSTON AND VERY RARE. The verso of B3 reads: "The Reader is hereby Caution'd against a little spurious Book, Printed with the same Title as this, and shaped like it, as ignorantly and illiterately as can be, Printed by one Bradford, which Book is partly stolen from the Original first by B. Harris, Senior, partly Corrupted, and perverted in its Sense; and generally the Word of God imposed upon with Nonsense, and Inconsistency; so that the real Design of the Author is Abused by such scandalous Imposition upon the Publick. B. Harris, Junior. March the 15th. 1712." According to Isaiah Thomas, Benjamin Harris sometimes printed in connection with John Allen in Boston but was not in regular partnership with him. Evans states they were in partnership from 1691-1692. Harris returned to England in 1695. The Holy Bible in Verse first appeared there in 1698 and for years this 1717 edition was considered an English publication. John Wyllie, Librarian at the University of Virginia, however, recognized its type to be American, and from the types of John Allen in Boston. It bears remarkable similarities, especially in the clover-leaf type ornament, to Allen's printing of Increase Mather's Some Important Truths about Conversion, 1721. Thomas notes that he had seen a number of books printed after 1711 "by Allen alone, the last of which is Whittemore's Almanac, bearing the date 1724" (Thomas, p. 92). Evans lists no Allen imprints after 1724.
The woodcuts are of great interest, and Welch notes they "are New England primer alphabet cuts from an edition which has not survived but antedates the earliest known copy printed in 1727." The ten depict: 1. Bible, title; 2. Adam, p. ; 3. Samuel, p. ; 4. Uriah's beauteous Wife, p. ; 5. King, p. ; 6. Queen Ester, p. ; 7. Job, p. ; 8. Time, p. ; 9. Whale, p. ; and 10. Peter, p. . Crude copies of these cuts were used in the New England Primer, Boston: S. Kneeland and T. Green, 1727 and Boston: Kneeland and Green, 1735. Welch states that the cuts must have been acquired by Thomas Fleet who also printed Whittemore's Farmer's Almanac in 1724.
EXCEEDINGLY RARE: American Book Prices Current records no copies going back as far as the Brinley sales in the late nineteenth century. The RLG Union Catalog records only six copies: Princeton, Yale, UCLA, NYPL (lacking two leaves), AAS and Free Library of Philadelphia. Bristol B518; Shipton & Mooney 39659; Welch, "American Children's Books," American Antiquarian Society, October 1964, 452.1.