Other printers could circumvent the monopoly on Bible printing in England by publishing Family Bibles. These Bibles include numerous illustrations, pictures, maps, and additional study aids. Presenting themselves as educational materials, they were designed as a family’s one stop-shop for Bible reading and Bible study. The first of these was printed by William Rayner in 1739. Many of these family Bibles were printed in England during the 18th and 19th centuries. Many began to include photographs of the Holy Land and dedicated pages for family records including marriages, births, and deaths.
Family Bibles were extremely popular in the past. Some families even still keep them today and continue to update them, more as a family tradition than as a method of permanent record-keeping as it used to be. Often, family Bibles were passed down among the generations, so you will see different handwriting in the recording pages as time went on in the family. The important thing is that the information was usually recorded as it happened, or soon after by someone with first-hand knowledge of it, so it is usually quite accurate and trustworthy.
More often than not, the family Bible was the only written record of births, marriages and deaths of loved ones. In addition, between the leaves of this precious possession one could expect to find a wealth of newspaper clippings, letters, photos, and other ephemera pressed for safekeeping over generations of for-bearers.
Family Bibles often had beautifully decorated covers, with gold gilt page edges, and metal closing clasps. Ornate family Bibles became so common that they could be purchased from a Sears catalog or a door to door Bible salesman.
Bible salesmen were given the task of going door to door during the summer months to advertise and secure the sale of a family Bible that could be customized to meet the customer’s request. They used Bible samplers that contained various options of decorations, quality, covers, and spines. After the customer made their selections, the salesman would use the included price list to record the order in the back of the sampler.