Family Bibles are designed to endure substantial use over successive generations, just like the scripture contained within. The Lougheeds’ is no exception. This particular Bible is called The People’s Standard Edition Holy Bible: Containing the Old and New Testaments and the Apocryphal Writings; it weighs a ton, and it is not playing around. The heavy leather cover and thick pages protect the book well, and it’s still in excellent condition almost 150 years later. Because of their resilience, family Bibles tended to serve double duty as both a conduit to God and a secure location to store important documentation. Many such Bibles are discovered with loose papers tucked between their pages. Unfortunately, nothing of the sort was found with this book, but its contents make up for that.
Like all family Bibles, the Lougheeds’ contained a section dedicated to the family’s history. A marriage certificate immediately follows the Old Testament, and is signed by the minister who officiated Sir James’s and Lady Isabella’s wedding. The certificate is wonderfully illuminated, and is accompanied by several pages detailing the births, marriages, deaths, and other significant events (mostly christenings) of James and Isabella’s children. Those records are written in many hands, and cover roughly fifty years of events. In fact, this book was still being used by the Lougheeds after this home was repossessed by the government in 1938!
This Bible, unlike many other family tomes, isn’t limited to scripture. Fittingly enough for a family of intellectuals, the book also contains several sections which fill in the details surrounding the holy stories, including an eighty-page preface that explores the literature, history, and inspiration of the Bible itself. That preface is filled with sketches of holy sites both extant and lost, analyses of ancient Egyptian and Assyrian culture and custom, alphabets of dead languages, and thorough historical examinations of each of the books of the Bible. It even explores the Greek roots of the word “Bible” (from biblos, meaning “the book”). The appendices include a dictionary of Bible terms, a pronunciation guide, and space for some (sadly empty) family portraits. Essentially, this massive book was meant to be the final word on the Holy Word.
The book was published in the United States in 1876, and was available through subscription. Unlike a lot of the furniture in the house, which was auctioned off in the 1930s and has found its way back to us over the years, the Lougheed Bible never left the family. It’s tough to appreciate the beauty of this book if it just sits in storage, so it’s taking centre stage up here instead!
-Jake, Summer Student