Thou SHALT commit adultery: rare 'sinners' Bible' goes on sale

A rare 400-year-old "sinners' Bible" containing a typo encouraging adultery has been put up for sale.

The "sinners bible" came after the 'Authorised Version' of the English Bible, printed in London in 1611 by Robert Barker. Commissioned by King James I, it is also known as the King James Version.Bonhams

The manuscript, published in 1631, is one of a handful remaining of a collection that contained an error in the 10 commandments, the Daily Mail reports.

The publication omitted the crucial word "not" and instead printed "thou shalt commit adultery" as an alternative take on Exodus 20.14.

It is not known whether the error was a genuine mistake by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers, or whether it was an act of sabotage by business rivals. Either way the mistake, when it was discovered a year after printing, caused uproar in the Anglican community.

"When this Bible was printed in 1631 it was just intended to be the latest in a long line of editions that had been published by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the Royal printers," said Simon Roberts, an expert from Bonhams' books and manuscript department.

"They printed 1,000 copies of this particular Bible but the problems began around a year later when it was discovered that there was an error in the Ten Commandments," Roberts said in the Daily Mail.

"It turned out the word "not" had been admitted from the Seventh Commandment so it now read 'thou shalt commit adultery'.

The typo, whether accidental or an act of sabotage, offers an alternative reading to Exodus 20 verse 14

"It was a horrific mistake to have made and caused outrage on its discovery. Someone went to the King and he summoned Barker and Lucas to the Star Chamber in Westminster to explain themselves.

"They were fined £300, a huge amount of money in those days, and had their printing licences suspended.

"There are a few theories about how the error made it into print - it may have been a simple slip-up but others think it was a plot to sabotage Barker's reputation. It does seem rather unlikely that a mistake of this enormity could be made and not spotted before it was printed.

"Whether intentional or not, the scandal did contribute to Barker's downfall and he eventually died in debtors' prison in 1645.

"The blasphemous Bibles were recalled and burnt but a few slipped through the net.

"Only nine copies are thought to exist now, making them incredibly rare and sought after. Although this Bible was controversial at the time it is now an important part of the history of this holiest of books."

The copy is expected to fetch at least £15,000 when it goes to auction at Bonhams, London on 11 November.