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Bowyer Bible Lottery

  • Viewing Ticket
  • Admit Palmer Esq & Friend to view the above from 10 till 6 o'clock
  • 22 Golden Square [London]
  • Circa 1841
  • 133 x 76mm (5¼ x 3¼in)

Robert Bowyer (1758-1834) was a miniature-painter and print-publisher. Over several years he produced a grangerised edition of the Macklin Bible referred to as the Bowyer Bible. After his death Mary Parkes, a maid and shop assistant, inherited the business.

The prize draw to take place under the auspices of the London Art Union is described in a contemporary press report: "Yesterday the press was admitted to a private view of the celebrated unique Bible published by Macklin, and illustrated by the late Mr Bowyer. This edition of the sacred volume is a truly wonderful production. It is of the folio size, is printed in the largest and boldest type we have ever seen in book work, and extends to no fewer than forty-five volumes. The pictorial illustrations - partly drawings but principally engravings - are, generally speaking, of the finest merit and are nearly seven thousand in number. The entire work is in the most perfect state. Mrs Parkes, No. 22 Golden Square, in whose possession it is, is exhibiting it to the public previous to it being drawn for when the requisite number of subscribers have been obtained".

In May, 1841, Mrs Parkes announced to the public that her plan for the prize draw was proceeding as expected. The first prize being the splendid Bowyer Bible, complete with a magnificent ornate oak cabinet, measuring eight feet six inches square, to contain all the forty-five volumes and valued at three thousand guineas; the second prize being Hilton's historical picture of the Triumphal Entry of the Duke of Wellington into Madrid, valued at five hundred guineas.

Three hundred and fifty subscribers paying ten guineas each would be contesting for a chance to own one of these desirable items. On receipt of their payment each subscriber would receive, from Mrs Parkes's valuable stock of fine engravings, prints to the full value of their ten guinea ticket, so in effect their entry into the draw had cost them nothing.

The destiny of this inestimable work, represented by the culmination of thirty years work with thousands of pounds expended, suffered the ignominy of being won in the lottery by a haberdasher, Mr. O. Stone, of King William Street, in 1844.

The Bible is now in Bolton Museum, Lancashire, England. Donated in 1948 to Bolton Libraries by the descendants of a local merchant, Robert Heywood the son of a successful textile manufacturer, who bought the Bowyer Bible for five hundred and fifty pounds from the estate of John Albinson, a well-known antiquary, in March 1856, when his extensive library was sold by auction.



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