A rare first edition of the King James Bible has been found in the largest medieval parish church in Wales.
Rev Dr Jason Bray, who arrived at St Giles Church, Wrexham earlier this year as its new vicar, read Alfred Palmer's The History of the Parish Church of Wrexham and decided to see if he could find some of the items Palmer mentioned as belonging to the church. He was looking through some dusty cupboards when he found the 1611 Bible, one of just 200 known still to be in existence.
He sent it to the National Library of Wales which confirmed its authenticity.
Dr Bray said: "It has seen better days but most of it is in remarkably good condition. Most churches had them but the fact ours is a first edition and it's been kept here all that time, it's really exciting."
St Giles, begun in the 14th century, is one of the most beautiful churches in the UK, and was described by writer Simon Jenkins as "the glory of the Marches". Grade One listed, it is the regimental chapel of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. The 135-foot turreted tower is regarded as one of the "seven wonders of Wales".
The graveyard contains the tomb of Elihu Yale, who Yale University in the US is named after. The King James Bible is regarded as a masterpiece of the English language. The translation emerged from a conference called by King James I in 1604 at Hampton Court Palace, where services at the Chapel Royal, which has its own professional choir, still use the King James Bible.
Dr Bray said: "We basically found it when we were going through the cupboards. We didn't know it was a first edition, but we sent photographs to the National Library of Wales and they confirmed that it was, dating back to 1611. It has been authenticated, and as far as we know, has always been here."
He told the Mail: "King James wanted everybody to use the same Bible and have it put in all the churches. What he was trying to do was create some sort of uniformity."
The Bible, known as the Authorised Version, was printed in London by Robert Barker. The St Giles is missing a few pages, including a frontispiece from the Old Testament. A similar copy found in Great St Mary's at Cambridge University in 2011 was valued at several thousand pounds.
Dr Bray said he was unable to guess at the value of the Bible. "I have absolutely no idea of its value. I don't know how many there are in existence and you can buy pages on the internet for about £500 each. It's not absolutely complete, but it's not far off."
The Bible is currently safely stored. Dr Bray hopes to raise funds in order to put it on display as it merits.