In 1631, twenty years after the completion of the King James Bible, King Charles I commissioned the printing of a thousand Bibles from Robert Barker and Martin Lucas.

Consider the process of printing a book in the 17th century. Special letter (or word) blocks were arranged in a system called movable type, allowing printers to produce different pages far more cheaply and quickly than the old woodblock printing system. To create a given page, the printer would arrange the letter/word blocks in a setting, print the page, then rearrange the letter/word blocks to form the next page.

Image from Wikipedia

Image from Wikipedia

With close to 780,000 words, is it any wonder that mistakes might be made in the printing of the Bible?

Unfortunately, the mistake made by Barker and Lucas was in the Ten Commandments, where the 6th (or 7th, depending on your denomination) read as: “Thou shalt commit adultery.” Because of this error, the Wicked Bible is also sometimes called The Adulterous Bible or The Sinners’ Bible.

King Charles I was rather mortified and had the collection recalled and destroyed. He failed to get them all, however, and a few known copies still exist (including one at the New York Public Library and another at the British Library in London).

According to Wikipedia, printing errors, particularly those involving the omission of words like “not” in the Bible, have not historically been particularly uncommon, but the Wicked Bible is certainly the most famous example!