London: Robert Barker, 1608. Hardcover. , 1-435 (but 434), , 441-554 leaves. Concordance unpaginated. Collation:  A-Hhh8, Iii2, (OT) , Kkk-Yyy8, Zzz10 (NT) Concordance unsigned.
Quarto, 17x22 cm. Finely bound by Ernest Zaehnsdorf in brown Morocco goatskin, five raised blind-ruled bands over six fleuron blindstamped panels, head and tail gilt-ruled, covers gilt and blind-ruled with blind-stamped fleurons to all corners, gilt-ruled turn-ins. A very handsome, period-appropriate plain-style binding. A perfect example of Zaehnsdorf's approach to binding––not as gaudy and eye-popping as some of their contemporaries, yet subtly elegant and utterly flawless in every detail.
General title present and complete with engraved heart within woodcut border of twelve tribes and twelve apostles. Matching NT title d. 1610. Corners of 4 leaves of Hebrews cut with some text loss (535-538. Small divot to head near spine, small red stain to fore edge of first half, fore edge knicked of several Jeremiah pages, six Deuteronomy leaves torn and tissue-repaired, small puncture to final index page, carefully trimmed by an earlier binder and only occasionally just impinging on the text. Otherwise a remarkably clean and fresh copy. Binding shows some superficial shelf wear.
NT Title verso bears the original owner's inscription, a charm poem imprecating various traps, fetters, and even gallows for the borrower who fails to return Elizabeth's book.
Ernest Zaehnsdorf was the grandson of his bindery's founder, carrying ownership till the year after this job and managing the firm through 1957. He faithfully maintained the integrity of one of the great London binderies, continuing its hallmark understatedly refined style, for which this Puritan Bible was a perfect match. Included here is his personal letter on Zaehnsdorf letterhead responding to a letter from the commissioning customer, one Hon. Mrs Philip Carey. In it he expresses gratitude for her compliments on the binding before expertly fielding two perhaps disappointed queries. First, re: the relative lack of gold on the spine: "We could not tool more gold on the spine as the sewing is "flexible" and the gold would crack with the opening of the book." Lovely evidence that their bindings were intended to be as functional as decorative, as well as their commitment to period-appropriate style with the "tight-back" spine. Second, re: the plain endpapers: "these are hand made and of some 20 years of age. This paper has not been made at all recently as the basis is rag which is not available in these days. Marbled paper would not be correct––as marbled paper did not come into use for many years after the date of your Bible." (This is my favorite part): "I rather fancy that we discussed that point when you ordered the work to be done." The letter ends with an exhortation to air and light but never direct sunlight, advice which seems to have been followed given the remarkably bright and supple condition of the leather in its surviving state.
The scarcity of a fine binding here is accentuated by the social status of the "Breeches Bible" and its readers, disparagingly so-called for its translation of Genesis 3:7 ("they sewed figge tree leaves together, and made themselves breeches”). High society tended to look on the Puritans' Bible as a homely and undignified translation. In reality, the Geneva Bible was the text of all English subjects––high and low––from Shakespeare to Queen Elizabeth. It reigned for half a century as the preeminent English Bible translation, superseded only by the new translation in process at the time of this publication.
Darlow & Moule 293 (Gen 1.3 reads "Then God sayd"); ESTC S682. Sources: The Zaehnsdorfs (1842-1947): Craft Bookbinders; Ryan Hildebrand, "Books as Art: Exploring Rare Zaehnsdorf Bindings." NEAR FINE. Item #2232