Thumb Bibles

The History of a Literary Genre


The literary genre of “thumb bibles” belongs to the category of miniature books and is a subtype of children's bibles. Thumb bibles summarize the full bible by paraphrasing selected biblical narratives. Adhering to the Reformation principle of sola scriptura, their aim is to teach children and youth the biblical basics. For this purpose, many of them are illustrated. Popular with collectors, thumb bibles have largely been ignored by researchers. This publication is the first academic study of thumb bibles. For the first time in their centuries-long history, it explores their genesis in Britain, investigates their subsequent development in Germany, and presents their climax in America. What emerges is the theological, literary, pedagogical and pious profile of a fascinating genre.

This book is a translation of Daumen-Bibel: Eine Untersuchung zu Geschichte und Profil einer literarischen Gattung (V&R unipress, 2021).

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Gottfried Adam, Dr. theol., is Professor emeritus of Religious Education at the Faculty of Protestant Theology at the University of Vienna, Austria. He has published widely on the literary genre of children´s bibles.
List of Abbreviations

Studying Thumb Bibles
1 British Thumb Bibles during the Seventeenth Century
2 Thumb Bibles in Germany at the Turn of the Eighteenth Century (1690–c.1710)
3 The London Biblia, or a Practical Summary (1727) and its Impact
4 British Thumb Bibles in the Nineteenth Century
5 American Thumb Bibles in the Nineteenth Century
6 The End of the Literary Genre ‘Thumb Bible’ and its Aftermath
7 Findings of the Study

Annexes of Printing History
List of Figures
Bibliographical Resources and Reference Books
Primary Literature
Secondary Literature

The volume makes a contribution to scholarship in religious studies, cultural studies, and book history. It will appeal to a broader readership with an interest in religious scriptures (researchers on children´s bibles), literary questions (collectors and researchers on miniature books and literary genres), and publishing/book history (academic libraries, especially theological libraries).
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