John Brown’s “Self Interpreting Family Bible” in a Fine Contemporary Binding
[BIBLE IN ENGLISH]. The Self Interpreting Family Bible, with an Evangelical Commentary by the Late Revd. John Brown, Minister of the Gospel at Haddington. Containing Marginal References & Reflections. Embellished with Elegant Engravings. London: Thomas Kelly, [n.d., ca. 1832]. [Bound together with:] The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: To which are Annexed Marginal References and Illustrations; an Exact Summary of the Several Books; a Paraphrase on the Most Obscure or Important Parts, and an Analysis of the Contents of Each Chapter, Together with Explanatory and Evangelical Reflections. By the Late Reverend John Brown, Minister of the Gospel, at Haddington. London: Thomas Kelly & Co., [n.d., ca. 1832].
Two parts in one large folio volume (17 1/16 x 10 3/4 inches; 433 x 275 mm.). Text in double columns. Engraved pictorial general title printed in bistre, engraved portrait of John Brown (with imprint: “London: Published by Thomas Kelly, 17, Paternoster Row. 1832”), engraved frontispiece portrait of “The Redeemer” in The New Testament, hand-colored engraved map (“A Map of the Holy Land, divided into Tribes”) by Jones (facing Ii1 verso), uncolored “Plan of the Ancient City of Jerusalem” (facing 4M1 verso), sixty-eight vibrantly hand-colored engraved plates, and one uncolored engraved plate of “The Ten Commandments,” printed in bistre. The hand-colored plates are within engraved borders, some with additional engraved vignettes.
Contemporary navy polished calf. Covers decoratively panelled in gilt and blind, spine elaborately tooled in gilt in compartments with five wide raised bands and brown morocco gilt lettering label, turn-ins decoratively tooled in gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Minor rubbing to board edges and corners. Tiny tear (1/4 inch) to lower blank margin of general title, short tear (3/4 inch) to outer blank margin of Tt2. Some scattered light foxing, primarily to first and last few leaves, slight offsetting from the plates to the text leaves, a few leaves very slightly browned. A fine copy, crisp and clean, in a wonderful contemporary binding. With the names “Samuel Rowland,” “Catherine Rowland,” and “Jessie Rowland,” filled in in ink in the “Family Register” at the front of the volume, the last entry dated “26th of July 1888.”
John Brown (1722-1787), “Scottish divine, was born at Carpow, in Perthshire. He was almost entirely self-educated, having acquired a knowledge of Latin, Greek and Hebrew while employed as a shepherd. His early career was varied, and he was in succession a packman, a soldier in the Edinburgh garrison in 1745, and a school-master. He was, from 1750 till his death, minister of the Burgher branch of the Secession church…in Haddington. From 1786 he was professor of divinity for his denomination, and was mainly responsible for the training of its ministry. He gained a just reputation for learning and piety. The best of his many works are his Self-Interpreting Bible and Dictionary of the Bible, works that were long very popular…He also wrote an Explication of the Westminster Confession, and a number of biographical and historical sketches” (The Encyclopædia Britannica (Eleventh Edition)).
“In 1778 his best-known work, the ‘Self-interpreting Bible,’ was published at Edinburgh in two volumes. Its design, he explains in the preface, is to present the labours of the best commentators ‘in a manner that might best comport with the ability and leisure of the poorer and labouring part of mankind, and especially to render the oracles of God their own interpreter.’ Thus the work contains history, chronology, geography, summaries, explanatory notes, and reflections—in short, everything that the ordinary reader might be supposed to want. It is a library in one volume. Brown is always ready to give what he believes to be the only possible explanation of each verse, and to draw its only possible practical lesson therefrom. The style throughout is clear and vigorous. The book at once acquired a popularity which among a large class it has never lost. It has been read widely among the English-speaking nations, as well as in Wales and the Scottish highlands. How well known it and Brown’s other works were in Scotland some characteristic lines of Burns bear witness:—For now I’m grown sae cursed douce,/I pray an’ ponder butt the house;/My shins, my lane, I there sit roastin’/Perusing Bunyan, Brown, an’ Boston. (Letter to James Tait of Glenconner, lines 19-22.)” (D.N.B.). Item #00011
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