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Rare Bibles: King James Bible First Editions

The Styberg Library has a special collection of rare Bibles. This guide features some of the ones that are within the collection.


The first two editions of the Authorized King James Bible are distinguished between the “He” and “She” versions. Of the estimated 351 errors in the first edition, the most famous discrepancy between the two versions lies in Ruth 3:15. The very first 1611 edition says that after Ruth received six measures of Barley, “he went into the cit[y],” while the next edition, also published in 1611, reads “she went…” Therefore, the former edition is known as the “He Bible,” while the latter is called the “She Bible.”

The Keen Bible Collection at Styberg library holds a rare 1612 quarto version of the Authorized “He” bible and a 1611 version of the Great “She” Bible. Both texts are on display for comparison of the Ruth 3:15 discrepancy at the Styberg Library from March through June 2024.

The Great "She" Bible (1611)


















The Great “She” Bible, 1611-1613. Robert Barker publication. London. Second Folio in calf skin. From the Paul Edwin Keen Bible Collection. Keen BS 185 1611.


First Editions of the King James Bible

The Authorized "He" Bible (1612)

1612 Authorized Version – “He”. Robert Barker publication. London. The first edition of the AV in quarto. From the Francis Fry Collection. Keen BS 185 1612.

The He/She Problem

Many scholars find the variation of pronouns used in the same line of text is not only a matter of typographical error in these early editions of the King James Bible but also reveals a problem of translation.  For instance, this particular verse had caused problems for English translators of the Bible from Hebrew early on. The Hebrew text implies that Ruth went into the city, not that Boaz accompanied her, even though the text reads, “he went into the city.” The translators simply translated the Hebrew text literally and accurately. Other early translations of the Bible avoid using either “he” or “she,” making the question of who went into the city even more unclear.

In summary, the discrepancy between the first and second printings is due in major part to this peculiarity of the Hebrew text. Other proposed factors include an unorganized printing house, an overwhelmed businessman, multiple compositors, and lack of standardization for proofreading. The he/she problem in Ruth 3:15 remains a publishing mystery.

Shaheen, N. “Ruth 3:15--the ‘he’ and ‘She’ Bibles.” Notes and Queries 56, no. 4 (December 1, 2009): 621–24.