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Macklin Bible

Macklin Bible

In 1789, London printseller Thomas Macklin (1752-1800) announced plans to publish “a magnificent Bible” with engravings after “pictures … from the most interesting passages by the first artists.”

Macklin was a publisher and dealer of pictures, based in London in the late eighteenth century. In 1788 he opened a ‘Poet’s Gallery’ to exhibit and reproduce in engravings paintings by eminent British artists of great works of English poetry. The following year, Macklin announced that he would add scripture pictures to the exhibition, which would be reproduced in an ambitious illustrated Bible. Biblical paintings were included in Macklin’s exhibitions in the years 1790-93, and the printed Bible was published in 1800.

The largest and most impressive Bible printed: a seven volume set that weighs well over 100 pounds! Each volume is illustrated with multiple copper plate engravings after paintings by some of the foremost artists of the day. Fifteen artists produced paintings for the Bible; they include names who remain fairly well-known, such as Benjamin West, Angelica Kauffman and Henry Fuseli, and others who are now relatively obscure, such as Sir Francis Bourgeois, Robert Smirke and William Artaud.

Macklin died on October 25, 1800, just five days after the last large engraving was finished for his Bible. According to the dictionary of national biography, “The Macklin Bible endures as the most ambitious edition produced in Britain, often pirated but never rivaled.”

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