Based on the number of requests we get for information about Old family Bibles, the families of famous (and infamous) people of history must have been very religious. We have analyzed a multitude of bibles in the last 20 years that were said to have belonged to close relatives relevant to Daniel Boone, Davy Crockett, Mark Twain, Billy the Kid, Ulysses S. Grant and even President McKinley*. Unfortunately, none of them had any provenance, and nearly all were printed long after all of these notables had gone to their final rest. Even though the vast majority of these bibles list the printing date and publisher on the first couple of pages, this information is often ignored in favor for the more interesting family fable that has developed over the years.
Most of these bibles we get appraisal requests for date from the last quarter of the 19th Century. Many of them are ‘Presentation Pieces’, which tend to have elaborate embossed covers and brass latches resembling books you’d find in a 14th century monastery, making them look far older than they really are. Quite often, these were given as presents to newlyweds or recently ordained clergymen and ministers by family, gradually passed down as family Heirlooms. Most contain dedications, records of births, deaths and family events.
The misconception regarding prior ownership to famous people often starts with last names written within these dedications, birth baptism and death records. What seems to happen is if any famous families last name appears, particularly if the last name is the same as Ulysses S. Grant or notorious bank robbers such as Jessie James or Bill Bonney (Billy the Kid), it’s automatically assumed there is some connection to that famous family. While bibles of this type are without a connection to a famous family, they should not be consigned to the trash, while they are not hugely valuable, they certainly are not worthless either. A 19th Century Presentation type bible in ‘ Fine ‘ condition as shown at the top of the page can sell for over $500.00 at auction. Most like the one shown to the left though have spent 100-plus-years of being pushed into bookcases, storage and hope chests end up in only “Fair to Good” condition, which often sell in the $80.00- $150.00 range
Wilcox & Hall Appraisers