1899 Wilmore Reference Bible in Letis Collection

One of the things I am trying to accomplish with the T.Letis collection of books (see my posts from April 10-12, 2012) is to add to its holdings of unique and rare Bibles, especially, but not exclusively, KJV’s. A little over a week ago I had the opportunity to purchase a rare Wilmore’s New Analytical Reference Bible from a local auction house, thanks to my son who works there and spotted it. It was published in 1899 by the Wilmore-Andrews Publishing Co. of New York (named after two of its founding directors, James A. Wilmore and S.C. Andrews). There are several things that make this Bible unique and rare (exactly how rare I have yet to determine!): [*click on the pictures to enlarge them]

1. This was one of the last Bibles the company published, because it dissolved in 1900, after only about twelve (12) years of existence (1888-1900, as best as I can determine). Why did it dissolve? In part because of a lawsuit filed against the company by none other than England’s Oxford University, which claimed copyright infringement for another Bible it published with the title, “Holy Bible, Oxford S.S. Teacher’s Edition”. The damages were placed at $10,000 (I found this information at this website). If you do a search on this Bible, you will discover that it was later published under the same name by Henry F. Giere (New York, 1909-10) and by Funk & Wagnall’s Co. (1918), but we have the edition produced by the original publisher, and that just before it ceased to exist.

2. The Bible is big and bulky – 8 -1/2 by 14 inches and about 4 inches thick (1127 pages)! It is considered a Family Bible and includes family record pages. And yet the publisher included these words in its announcement at the beginning: “…There is a demand from the Christian public for a practical and convenient handbook of the Bible…;”, and “their purpose has been to furnish… a standard work which should be comprehensive, …and… compact in form” (emphasis mine). I have to admit, I chuckled when I read that. Imagine lugging this Bible along to church or to society! But, truth be told, it was not intended to be taken to church; it is a family Bible, and it was intended to stay at home and be used by the Christian family, for devotions and Bible study together. Have we forgotten the good tradition of family Bibles?

3. The Bible study aids that are included with this Bible are outstanding and come attached to some familiar names. The first is a “Comprehensive Bible Helps: containing Instructive and Useful Information on Every Subject of Interest in the Bible, and including A Concise History of the Bible; a Condensed Harmony of the Gospels; All the Scripture Proper Names, with their pronunication and meaning; the Coins, Weights, and Measures of the Bible; All Bible Words of Obsolete or Peculiar Meaning, etc., etc.” And this section is “Illustrated with Maps and Engravings”. The name attached to this section? “Revised and Edited by Philip Schaff D.D., LL.D., Professor of Church History in the Union Theological Seminary, New York” – the same Schaff who wrote The Creeds of Christendom and History of the Christian Church!

The next study aid in this Bible is “A Complete Analysis of the Holy Bible: or, The Whole Bible Arranged in Subjects: containing every verse in the Bible, distributed according to its meaning, and arranged, with all other verses bearing on the same subject, under an appropriate heading. Fully indexed, and furnishing simple and exhaustive means for finding all the Bible teaches on any subject.” This section is “edited by Roswell D. Hitchcock, D.D., LL.D., Late President of the Union Theological Seminary, New York.” This truly is an amazing study help, similar to Nave’s “Topical Bible”, but more comprehensive. I have never seen anything like it.

The final study aid in the Wilmore Bible is “Cruden’s Concordance to the Bible: an Index to Every Significant Word in the Bible, Arranged in Alphabetical Order.” We are perhaps familiar with this Bible study tool (or Young’s or Strong’s Concordances), but this one was “edited by John Eadie, D.D., LL.D., Late Professor of Biblical Literature in the United Presbyterian Church, Scotland”. Eadie is recognized as a great, orthodox Bible scholar, whose NT commentaries are still in print and widely used.

4. I am trying to track down the history of this particular Wilmore Bible. No family names were written in the Family Records section, nor is there any writing anywhere in the Bible. However, tucked in the back was an old Vacation Bible School certificate from the Meyersdale (Pennsylvania) Church of the Brethren, made out to a Merle Speicher, dated June 7, 1926 (see picture below)! Through the Internet I discovered the church is still in existence and  have emailed them seeking information on this man to see if this Bible was in his family. I will keep you posted when I have an update.

Now you have another reason to come and see the Letis collection at Seminary. I hope you will make a visit someday. Tours are free, remember :)

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15 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I believe the topical analysis is by Eadie. Eadie published an “Analytical Topical Concordace” or the Bible classified under subject headings.

  2. Thanks for your comment – this is a fascinating and very comprehensive Bible with all its tools.

  3. I have one of these bibles. the cover is identical but separated. It looks like I am missing the first page or two.

    • Thanks for the note, Jeff. I am sure there are a few of these out there, and I am always happy to hear about them. Do you know where you got it from? Was it, e.g., a family Bible? Just curious.

  4. How rare is this Bible? I have one that has been passed down through my mother’s family. Mine is well-used—-the backs are present but loose—-some of the front pages are missing & I wanted to determine how old it is. The wording of the text as well as the references differs slightly from the modern KJV. A lot of the suffix -eth at the end of the words.

    • Hi Donna and thanks for the note on this Bible. I am not sure how rare it is, as there are some copies out there But if you have the same publisher and edition as the one we have, it seems to be somewhat rare. Hang on to yours! It is a keepsake.

  5. hello i have one but mine say sept 1891

    • and only has 1061 pages

    • That’s great – sounds like you have an older version yet – hold on to it! Thanks for your comment.

  6. I stumbled across one last week and bought it. Was an estate auction what a find. Am looking forward to spending more time in it

    • That’s great news! Always glad to hear of more of these Bibles out there. It is a real treasure and a great study Bible. Thanks for sharing your find here.

  7. We have a Wilmore’s New Analytical Reference Bible in our church that was published in 1892. We will have an unveiling ceremony of the bible on Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 4pm. It is preserved and on display at New Mount Zion CME Church-New Smyrna Beach, FL.

  8. First of all I want to thank you for this site and info on this bible. I found this bible today at one of the second hand stores for $50.00 but I didn’t get it yet. I need to find out if it is worth getting it.
    Thanks for the history on this bible. The first two pages on this bible are ripped and so I cant find the year published. But the publisher is Henry F.Giere. Lessee. and it is printed on top of J.A.WILMORE & CO. on one pages. Family records are all filled in and they had 11 kids. LOL. Bible also has two family pictures inside. I did some research and found one of the books like this on Amazon for $42.00 from 1896. But due to lack of info on there it is hard to make a conclusion.
    On eBay I found one that is $1,400 from 1893. It is in perfect shape but the price is so different from Amazon that I am not sure how to find its worth. Another point is that on this site http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~mstippah/Gullett.htm I found that this guy got a book from same publisher like mine but from 1907. But this would contradict your point above that Henry F. Giere was publishing it from 1909-1910. Can you please post where you found that info. Also you said above that Funk & Wagnall’s Co. was publishing this bible in 1918. But from the wiki page about this publisher I found that there is no publishing in that year for this book. I am really confused. Can you please help me a little and also tell me if it is worth buying this book for $50.00. Thank you for all your help. One thing that I can say about this particular bible to all the readers is that it has a lot of value to the families that it is getting passed on based on the records in them. So if you have it in your family keep it for sure.
    Oleg from NC

  9. I bought one at estate sale.
    1907 looks like the one you have pictured
    it has JA Wilmore then stamped over it is
    Henry F Giere, Lessee
    New York
    It has the names of the Poe Family.

    • Thanks for adding to the list, Bonnie – always love to hear stories of those who found similar books and Bibles! Enjoy your treasure :)


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