A few years ago we published the following article on the John Brown Bible in the St Andrews In Focus magazine. The article has been resurrected (terrible pun!) as we have been photographing pages of a John Brown Family Bible in the collection, so we thought we would share them with you.
SAAPT 2003.203 Brown Family Bible, c1840
John Brown was born at Carpow in the parish of Abernethy, in Perthshire, Scotland, and was the son of a weaver and fisherman. While working as a shepherd boy, Brown saved his earnings and walked from Abernethy to St Andrews to buy his first Greek Testament from Alexander McCulloch’s bookshop in South Street. While at the bookshop, Brown was challenged by a professor to read a passage in Greek, and when he correctly read from the bible, the professor bought the bible for the young boy. Upon returning to Abernethy he taught himself Greek, Latin and Hebrew, all without formal teaching. In a time when there was still a strong belief in witchcraft in Scotland, people in the town of Abernethy became suspicious of his knowledge, and he left the town never to return. He travelled the country for some time, eventually becoming the schoolmaster at Gairney Bridge, near Kinross, in 1747. It was around this time that he realized his calling and set his sights on the ministry of the Succession Church, and in 1751 Brown was called to be the Burgher minister of Haddington.
Brown planned his self-interpreting bible for many years and he spent many years working on it. It was first published in 1778, with Brown at first struggling to find a publisher for the book and being forced to advance the money himself. This first publication cost a Georgian 22/-, and sold surprisingly well for being so expensive. It was subsequently reprinted in at least 26 editions, with the last being published in 1909. John Brown published a number of other books, including “A History of the Churches in Scotland and England from the Earliest Period” and “The Dictionary of The Bible”, though it is worth noting that none of his publication made him any money.
John Brown married twice and had four sons, three of which also became ministers. He died in June 1787.