The Family Bible, An Echo Of The Medieval Book.

By the mid nineteenth century the Bible was regarded as being a lot more than just teachings inspired by the light of God.

They became objects of devotion in their own right, and given a special place in the house and often containing letters and memories in the form of dried flowers.

The family bible evolved into the religious hub of the house.

The Protestant faith of the time, held sacred the living Word, and placed more value on sermons rather than ritual, so it is not surprising that the Holy Bible became seen as such iconic objects.

The Bible publishers of the day served to the market by making massive family Bibles, complete with explanatory articles, special pages for births, deaths and marriages, and that owed much in style to the ancient book.

So the family Bible became the altar of domestic spirituality, somewhere where the sacred life of the household met the sacred life of the church founders, apostles & prophets.

As bookbinders we were housed in the grounds of an active monastery, perhaps for that reason we had far more than our fair share of family bibles to repair. Looking at our receipts I see we restored about twenty large format bibles a year

Unfortunately the structure of most of these family Bibles lacked the integrity of the contents.

In terms of design, many of these Family Bibles harked back to medieval examples of binding, at least in appearance.

The Family Bibles often had very heavy boards, often half an inch thick.

In further imitation of the early codex, they often came with clasps and fancy engraved corners. Some had brass edging around the sides of the boards.

Of course these fittings added a great deal to the boards’ weight

Attempting to keep within a tight budget, most of these Family Bibles were bound in thin sheepskin leather.

This thin skiver leather was just not up to the task of supporting the massive and heavy boards, that is why so many unrepaired Family Bibles can be found with one or more boards detached from the binding.

It is of course possible to repair these books, though they do represent a considerable investment, usually of several hundred pounds.

By Richard Edward Norman

Expert Repair of Family Bibles By Post

For over 30 years I ran a bookbinding studio within a Catholic community. In this time I became expert In the repair of large format Family Bibles. I am now a specialist in the repair of these books. I am also a qualified paper conservator.