Skip to Main Content

Rare Bibles: Aitken Bible (1781)

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


Due to the War of Independence, there was a shortage of Bibles in America. Published in 1781 by Robert Aitken, the Aitken Bible was the first complete English Bible printed in America. Approved and recommended to the United States Congress by the Senate and House chaplains, this is a copy of the King James translation, printed in Philadelphia with an American imprint. Great Britain had not allowed the American colonies to print copies of the Bible, but with independence came the ability to publish Bibles in America. It was supposedly translated from the original Greek and compared with other English translations. Interestingly, the text of the New Testament is not paged; rather, it simply moves from book to book, and there are a couple of mistakes within the text itself.