Family Bibles

I have two old bibles, both with dates of births (and some deaths) of various family members. Both came to me on the death of my uncle, (Walter) George, who inherited them from his father, Walter.

Quarto bible, 1806

This book is in quite poor condition, with obvious signs of repair. Leather hinges have been stuck onto both front and back covers but have all broken and the cover of the spine is missing. The front cover is completely detached and the frontispiece is heavily creased with the bottom part with the publication date is torn away. The next two pages (the dedication to King James and the first page of Genesis) have been replaced by the frontispiece and first page of the New Testament, apparently cut out from their proper place and showing a date of 1806. Conceivably these pages could have been taken from a different book, but they are a good match and do probably belong to this bible. On this basis, it is likely that it originally belonged to James senior. Inside the cover there is a faint pencilled signature: it is tempting to try to read the date as 1818 but there is definitely a well-formed loop on the 6, so this must be the writing of James junior, just three years before his death.

FB1JBsig.jpg (14K)

James Bridge, Feb 7th 1868
Move the mouse pointer over this picture to see how I trace out the words.

Dates seem to have been written in at various times. Possibly the oldest entries are on the last page of the Old Testament, where the dates of birth of six children are recorded (see below). The date of the third entry has been corrected, the word April having been deleted and Oct written over. Given the publication date, these dates must have been written in as a block, perhaps when George was born in 1807, with William and Samuel added later. Underneath this the names and dates of birth of both parents are written. (Much later, Walter Bridge added details of his own family.)

There are signs of damage, as though a child had scrawled on the page. However, if this was done with a pencil, all traces of the pencil lead have been removed and all that shows is the indentation on the paper.

FB1NTv.jpg (56K)

Possibly as a result of the defacing of the older entries or maybe when the book was repaired by moving the frontispiece of the New Testament, the details for the first four children are entered again on the reverse of that page, preceded by the date of birth of their mother. These dates appear to have been copied in as a block and the handwriting seems different from the other list. On the reverse of the original Old Testament frontispiece is entered the date of death of one child, Samual.

FB1OTv.jpg (27K)

Octavo bible, 1837

This bible has a handsomely embossed cover which shows that it was printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. It was inscribed to Anne Gore on the endpaper and dated May 6, 1841, when she would have been 20 years old. On the reverse side the name is written again, spelled correctly without the "e", so possibly the first version was written by the donor and the second is her autograph.

Under the autograph are written the names and birthdays of James and Ann, probably added at the time of their marriage. The names are written in a formal copperplate script and the years seem to have been added as an afterthought; the words "born" were pencilled in later.

On the next page, the fly leaf, are written the dates of birth of her ten children, the last being my grandfather, Walter. The handwriting is distinctive and similar to the pencil signature of James Bridge in the older bible. The writing is also quite uniform, so again these dates seem to have been written in as a block. Caroline's death is recorded on the reverse side, again in the same hand. Probably all these entries were made at the same time, in the late 1860's.

The list of births is followed by the date of death of James Bridge, described as "the father of the above". The handwriting is different and in particular the "B" is much more rounded. Probably Anne wrote in the death of her husband and, a few years later, that of her daughter Olive. Ann's own death is also recorded, with some others, continuing on the reverse side. These later entries were probably written by Annie Bridge, the unmarried daughter, who would most likely have cleared up her mothers's home. Walter lived with her for a time after his return to England until her death. She left all her property to him which presumably is how the books came into his possession.