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Psalm 23 from the 1611 Canterbury KJB (3MB)

  • This is Psalm 22 in the Latin Vulgate of St Jerome and the Douai-Reims translation
  • Among the many changes introduced in Protestant Bibles at the Reformation was a re-numbering of the Psalms traditionally attributed to the biblical King David
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John's Gospel 1:1-20 from the 1611 Canterbury KJB (3.5MB)

  • The decorated capital 'I' features the Gospel author, St John, inspired by the word of God
  • St John appears in the capital 'I' alongside an eagle, the animal traditionally associated with him in the Middle Ages
  • The margins of this page, which include a sparse series of references to other biblical passages, demonstrate the KJB's deliberately minimal approach to notes
  • John's Gospel is preceeded by a banner featuring the symbols of all the kingdoms James I claimed to be king of: the Scottish thistle, the Tudor Rose of England, the Irish harp and the French fleur-de-lis (the latter a claim inherited from his English predecessors)

The Genealogy of Noah from the 1613 Canterbury KJB

  • The genealogy naturally begins with Adam and Eve
  • The above image shows Noah's ark beached upon a hill (Ararat)
  • The first 10 pages of the genealogy feature pictorial art; however for some reason the remaining 24 pages of genealogies have no art
  • The genealogy ends with the birth of Jesus Christ. However because Joseph was not the natural father of Jesus, we see Joseph marked as father to Jesus 'by law' and Mary marked as mother 'by nature'

The Provenance of the Canterbury KJBs


In 1982 the Dean and Chapter of Christchurch's Anglican Cathedral gave a copy of the KJB to the University of Canterbury along with a series of other books.

The 1611 Canterbury copy's original provenance remains unclear. Prior to entering into the cathedral's collection, it had once formed a part of the library of Christ's College, an educational institution established in Christchurch during the 19th century. While no written record remains, it is possible that the Bible was donated to the college by members of Christ Church College, Oxford.

The Canterbury 1611 KJB is missing a number of its pages. These include the engraved title page for the Old Testament and the Dedication to the Reader. Some of the last pages (including the Apocalypse) have been eaten by rats. Whether this occurred in Christchurch or while the volume was undertaking its perilous sea voyage is unclear.

The cover, although rather tattered, is original. It is made from boards covered with leather, with a stamped pattern on the leather still visible. The spine is still strongly bound in leather.

The interior of the Bible reveals several clues that indicate it was once in private ownership. The map of the Holy Land and the gazetteer have been removed. Futher, there are 41 pencil "X" marks added at various points in the text, suggesting the importance of certain passages to a private owner.


Only recently rediscovered in 2012, UC's 1613 edition is believed to have been a part of Christchurch artist William (Bill) Sutton's private collection.

The cover, like that of the 1611 version, was made from boards and covered with leather, although with the 1613 edition someone has re-covered the parts that have worn over time and placed fresh lining pages at the start of the inside covers.

Like its 1611 brother, the map of the Holy Land and the gazetteer are missing from the 1613 edition. The Bible also has markings throughout its pages suggesting private ownership. Instead of "X"s, these take the form of hand-written notes. On the back page we find a list of the family dead. Recording the dead was a common practice when early settlers arrived in New Zealand. It enabled them to remember and trace their family tree. This in not Willian Sutton's family tree, although this did not stop him from writing his name on the page.

Although some research has been done, a series of ongoing projects relating to the KJB will continue at Canterbury, one aim of which will be to establish the broader history of these two copies. Where did these Bibles come from? How did they reach Christchurch?

Christchurch's Anglican cathedral before the 2010/11 earthquakes

Online Resources

Full Text of the KJB (Canterbury Staff/Students only)

Ruth Lightbourne, 'Shipwreck Bible, Soldier's Bible, First New Testament in Maori, and More...' [National Library of New Zealand, December 2012]

Further Reading

Peter Carrell, 'The King James Bible', in Treasures of the University of Canterbury Library, ed. by Chris Jones, Bronwyn Matthews and Jennifer Clement (Christchurch: Canterbury University Press, 2011), pp. 75-78.

Gordon Campbell, The Bible: The Story of the King James Version, 1611-2011 (Oxford: OUP, 2011) , Chapter 5.

Resources @ Canterbury

The Holy Bible: Conteyning the Old Testament, and the New: Newly translated out of the originall tongues: & with the former translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesties speciall comandement: appointed to be read in churches (London: Robert Barker, 1611).