We recently had the pleasure of restoring this set of The Thomson Bible, 1808, generally known as 'Thomson's Bible'; the earliest translation of the Septuagint into English, and only 1,000 copies printed. Charles Thomson was Secretary to Congress from 1774 to 1789; when he retired he devoted himself to Biblical Study.
J. F. Watson in his Anals of Philadelphia. . . (1844, vol. i. pp. 568-9) says of Thomson: 'He told me that he was first induced to study Greek from having bought a part of the Septuagint at an auction in this city. He had bought it for mere trifle, and without knowing what it was, save that the crier said it was outlandish letters. When he had mastered it enough to understand it, his anxiety became great to see the whole; but he could find no copy. Strange to tell, in the interval of two years, passing the same store, and chancing to look in, he then saw the remainder actually crying off for a few pence, and he bought it. I used to tell him that the translation which he afterwards made should have had these facts set at the front of the work as a preface; for that great work, the first the kind in the English language, strangely enough, was ushered into the world without any preface.'
This copy has amazing provinance as it is signed by Charles Thomson himself, and it was also printed and bound by Jane Aitken, daughter of Robert Aitken. Robert Aitken was the first to print the KJV Bible in/for the US; Aitken's Bible was used by the Continental Army.
We restored the leather and rebacked three of the four volumes. The fun part about this restoration was recreating the new spines to match the original bindings so well that one can not tell what books were rebacked. Can you tell?
More fun information about The Thomson Bible from the Library of Congress Information Bulletin, Vol. 34, No. 46. November 14, 1975.
The Bible on which the Librarian of Congress took the oath of office has both Library and Bicentennial associations. The Thomson Bible, as it is known, was once in the Library of Thomas Jefferson and came to the Library of Congress when his library was purchased in 1815; it still bears the 1815 bookplate of the Library of Congress.
Charles Thomson was the secretary of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1789; probably no other man had such an opportunity to watch the continuing drama of the Revolution and the development of the nation. One of his last acts was to notify George Washington of his election to the Presidency of the New Federal government. After his resignation in 1789 he spent the next 20 years making and English translation of the Septuagint (according to bibliographers his is the first English translation of the pre-Christian Greek version of the Old Testament) and of the New Testament (the first English translation in the western hemisphere). It was published in Philadelphia in 1808 as The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Covenant, commonly called the Old and New Testament. The printer was Jane Aitken, who was carrying on the printing business of her father, Robert Aitken, famous in his turn as the printer of the Aitken Bible or the Bible of the Revolution, on which L. Quincy Mumford took the oath of office in 1954.
In January 1808, Thomas Jefferson saw an advertisement for the work and wrote to Thomson asking to be entered as a subscriber. The four octavo volumes sent to Jefferson are now in the custody of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Jefferson initialled each volume at signatures I and T, the secret way in which he identified most of the books in his library; three of the volumes still have the original sheep, red and blue morocco labels on the back, and "C. Thomson" lettered in gold.