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Payette Bible Series -- 1569 Geneva 'Breeches' Bible
Fifth installment in Forsyth resident's remarkable collection
Jennifer Martin looks on as Forsyth County resident Charles Payette displays the New Testament title page to this rare second edition Geneva bible in his collection. Notice the paper is a yellowish color and actually illuminates, making it easier to read in secret under the cloak of candlelight. Look closely and you will see the printer’s mark of John Crespin. This is the only Geneva Bible that he printed, and his mark is a large anchor with a serpent wrapped around it. Despite the tremendous popularity of this quarto-size Geneva Bible, this was just the second time the Bible had been printed in nine years since the first edition printed in 1560. - photo by Micah Green

About this series

Charles Payette’s Bible collection — numbering more than 3,000 books, wood blocks and other rare artifacts — is considered one of the world’s finest and rarest in private hands. In fact, some books in his collection are the only known ones in existence. Over the next several weeks, the Forsyth County resident is offering a closer look at some of the Bibles.



Visit to watch a video of Charles Payette talking about the 1569 Geneva “Breeches” Bible.


Next week

In the six of a 12-part series on the Payette Bibles, the FCN will offer a look at the 1573 Workes of W. Tyndall, John Frith and Dr. Barnes.


Previous articles

* Week 1: The Matthews Bible

* Week 2: The Great Bible

* Week 3: Erasmus English Latin Paraphrase

* Week 4: Geneva Bible

FORSYTH COUNTY — The fifth installment of the Forsyth County News series on resident Charles Payette’s Bible collection highlights the 1569 Geneva “Breeches” Bible.

The term “breeches” refers to the word in Genesis 3:7 that was used for the garments made by Adam and Eve to cover themselves after eating the forbidden fruit and when their eyes were subsequently “opened.”

This museum quality book collates complete, and is the second quarto edition of the Geneva Bible, a smaller book than the Bible of 1560. This particular book was printed in Geneva by John Crespin.

The book contains the Old and New Testaments, as well as the Apocrypha and a unique historic calendar, including “A Supputation of the Yeares World From the Creacion.”

This translates, according to Dr. M. Luther, to mean the world’s age in the year 1569 was 5536. The print is Roman type in double columns, with the same arguments, notes and annotations, as well as illustrations and maps as those in the 1560 edition.

The Bible also includes the Metrical Whole Book of Psalms by Thomas Sternhold and John Hopkins. Prior to the Reformation, only priests and clergy sang during church services, not the congregation.

The Reformers felt strongly that Scripture could be “singable” and Psalms (which means “songs”) lent themselves beautifully to being set to music, which was a metrical translation of the Psalms in vernacular poetry.

Some metrical psalters included melodies and even harmonizations. During this period it was common for these to be included in the Bible.

The Bible in the Payette collection contains the entire book of metrical Psalms, which was not necessarily common. Interesting that although the Reformers were proponents of this musical inclusion during worship, Calvinists prohibited musical instruments or organs in churches and required congregants sing the psalters “A Cappella.”

This copy contains five maps, which are quite rare, and also all preliminaries (written before each book, a sort of argument or explanation) and Psalms.

The Bible also contains John Calvin’s famous catechism. This copy is bound in calf skin with gilt lettering to the spine and the edges of the boards are decorated in gold.

One of the most amazing aspects of this copy is the yellow paper on which it is printed. At night, the paper emits a “glow” of sorts, making it easy to see in the dark. It actually appears to “glow.”

This unique paper, which to remind readers is 445 years old, was a brilliant way of reading this controversial book at night under candlelight without detection.

While the Bible itself is amazing, its provenance rivals the books existence and pristine condition. The copy was likely originally owned by Thomas Randolph, who was master comptroller general to Queen Elizabeth I, as well as Knighted and Chancellor of the Exchequer.

Randolph married Anne Walsingham, the sister of the famous Sir Francis Walsingham, best known as the spymaster of Queen Elizabeth.

It should be noted that often those in a prominent position, or those of royal descent, used their Bibles to record ownership and lineage and then passed down their Bibles accordingly.

In this copy, Randolph lists his children in great detail. Randolph (1523-90), while not someone many people may have heard of, played an interesting role in his day and was a key figure in the Reformation.

Most of his professional life he spent in Scotland at the courts of Mary, Queen of Scots and her son James VI. In 1568-69 (the date of his return was when this Bible was acquired), he was sent to Russia to visit the court of Ivan the Terrible.

Throughout his lengthy career, Randolph was sent to Scotland numerous times, where he used his influence to encourage Protestants against Mary Queen of Scots. In fact, the many letters he wrote during this period provided historical information about the Queen and her court, as well as the political plots and social intrigues of the times.

Queen Elizabeth wanted Mary, Queen of Scots to marry an Englishman. But after much consideration (and even agreeing to), Mary decided to marry Lord Darnley.

Though Randolph tried to prevent the marriage of Queen Mary to Lord Darnley, he was unsuccessful. Interestingly, he declined to recognize Darnley’s authority after the marriage.

Queen Mary accused Randolph of assisting and supporting James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray in rebelling against the crown, and banned Randolph from Scotland. Queen Mary also accused him of having written a book against her called Mr. Randolph’s Phantasy.

Toward the end of 1571, Randolph married Walsingham, sister of the spymaster about whom many books have been written and whom one of the bibles in Payette’s collection is dedicated to.

This beautiful Bible reminds us that all of these Bibles in the Payette collection have their own unique history and lineage.

Make sure to read next week’s installment that will highlight the 1573 Workes of W. Tyndall, John Frith & Dr. Barnes.

Readers will recall William Tyndale is the translator primarily responsible for creating the first English Bible, which was featured in the first of the Payette series and is titled The Matthews Bible. Once again, there is a fascinating and rare provenance.