Rare, Late 18th Century English Rebus Bible

View Item in Catalog
Lot #1  (Sale Order: 1 of 1143)  
Time Remaining:

This lot was not sold.

Placing your bid. please wait...

You've been outbid. Bid again.

Reserve Not Met
By clicking the Confirm Bid button, you are agreeing to the terms of sale.
Important Information Regarding Your Maximum Bid
Please do not show confirmation for remainder of session.
"Tax, Shipping & Handling and Internet Premium not included. See Auction Information for full details."

Payment Type:

Payment Type: Please Add / Select Card

Description Terms of Sale
Item Description: Translate description

Anon. The Hieroglyphick Bible, III Edition. 8 x 12.75 in. copy book/journal, likely kept by an English seaman, late 18th century. 46 leaves (92 pp), marbled paper boards. Each page has three (one page with four) selected verses from the King James Bible. The verses are identified along the left or top margins. Each verse is illustrated in rebus form, with many small watercolors throughout. A conservative count of just the Old Testament portion yields a count of over 630 images.

Flayderman apparently acquired this while researching his book, Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders: Whales and Whalemen (New Milford, CT, 1972). Each right hand page has "HKL Fgs" (with a common vertical between H and K) and a number at the bottom after each, possibly the author's initials? Besides each verse being noted, each also has initials and a sequential number, beginning with 364. There are 275 verses (one page with 4, one with 1, the rest with 3), thus the verses are numbered to 639.

This author was no ordinary seaman, however. In the book, especially the first half, God is represented by a disk with rays extending outward, and "Domini" (Latin) within the oval. Later the disk has the Greek letters for "Theos" and at the end, generally the disk has the Hebrew letters for "YHWH." The text portion is in a very neat hand. His walled towns are reminiscent of the "Nuremberg Chronicle" (Liber Chronicarum) woodcuts. All indications are that the maker was well-educated. We would suggest he may have been a chaplain or surgeon on the vessel, or perhaps a missionary setting out to save some souls.

The first 47 pages contain Old Testament verses. The last 33 pages cover the New Testament. Somewhat surprisingly, the middle 12 pages contain verses from the Apocrypha (2 Esdras, Tobit, Judith, Wisdom of Solomon, Ecclesiasticus [Wisdom of Sira], Baruch, Bel & the Dragon, Maccabees [1 & 2]).

While there is no date, there are at least two coins with George III as well as the date of 1796. The military uniforms and styles of civilian clothing, as well as instrument forms all converge on the late 18th century as the most probable date for this Bible.

A wonderful piece of English folk art that certainly has more stories to tell than the ones suggested here. For example, in the verse Job 29: 15 ("I was eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame.") the artist portrays a man with a cane and dog as the rebus for "the blind." Many histories of guide dogs only trace them to post-WWI. However, there are mentions of guide dogs as early as the 16th century in English literature, and they are possibly depicted in an even earlier mural dating from the first century AD Herculaneum. The choices made for the verses and rebuses within them would be interesting in itself. Some bring a smile: in the verse from Galatians 6:11, his rebus for "letter" is a folded lettersheet with a red wax seal that is addressed "To the Galatians." Every "trip" through reveals new perspectives.

Flayderman and Marian Klamkin (1926-2012), a noted author of a number of books on topics ranging from White House china to folk sculpture, Shaker art, and more, made some attempts to publish this in the 1970s, with Flayderman revisiting the issue again in the 1980s and as late as 2002:This journal, a biblical rebus, has never, until recently, been seen outside of the New Bedford family in whose possession it has been for many generations. A rebus, by the way, is an enigmatical representation of words by pictures. The journal is a collection of verses from the Old and New Testament and possibly was written as a gift for a child. It is one of the most charming and effective examples of an eighteenth century hand-written and -illustrated journal that one could imagine.

...Instead of using illustrations that would relate to biblical times, the British sailor who devised and wrote this bible puzzle used contemporary eighteenth century figures, buildings, tools, musical instruments, uniforms, coins and other objects that would be familiar to anyone who attempted to untangle the puzzle....

The making of sea journals was a common pastime of sailors. … [and] often contained poetry, maxims and random thoughts of the homesick sailor. They were seldom written with any real plan and some record information about ports visited, unusual geological elevations or ship repairs. Therefore, in respect to other sea journals of the period, this biblical rebus is unique. Its author obviously had more talent for drawing and painting than he did for writing and he probably chose verses from the Bible that he felt would more easily adapt to the rebus form.

Provenance: N. Flayderman and Co., Inc.

Condition: Water stain along right margin. Lower page edges slightly wrinkled from dampness, but no staining. Cover detached and spine nearly separated.

EST $ 15000-25000

Unable to retrieve AutoCheck Summary Report, please try back later.

Summary Vehicle History Report below provided by AutoCheck.

AutoCheck® vehicle history reports deliver information on reported accidents, odometer rollback, lemon vehicles, branded titles and much more.

AutoCheck found record(s) for this   




Get the full report to learn more:

Know the exact vehicle you want? One report may be all you need.  Single Report $24.99

Researching more than one vehicle? Run as many reports as you like for 21 days Unlimited Reports for 21 Days $44.99
This item is part of Historic Firearms & Militaria 2-Day Live Auction
 Wednesday, Nov 2, 2016 | 10:00 AM  Eastern
Print This Page

Rare, Late 18th Century English Rebus Bible
Rare, Late 18th Century English Rebus Bible
Lot number: 1
Seller: Cowan's Auctions
Event: Historic Firearms & Militaria 2-Day Live Auction
Ends: Wednesday, November 2 | 10:00 AM  Eastern

Message: 500 characters remaining