BIBLE. The Self-Interpreting Bible ... By the Rev. John Brown ... And an original Memoir of the Author. Glasgow, William Mackenzie, c. .
Large 4to. Original black morocco, spine with raised bands and lettered in gilt ornamented in blind, innder dentalles and all edges gilt; pp. [iv, family register, not used], additional steel-engraved title, portrait of John Brown, lix, 1165, double-page birds-eye view of the Holy Land in steel-engraving; highly illustrated with steel-engraved plates, map and tables; binding a little marked in places, lower hinnge a little weakened; apart from occasional foxing a good and complete example of this sumptuous book production.
The 18th-century Reverend John Brown was the son of a Scottish salmon fisher, minister of the Secession church and theologian.
As a young man he taught himself many languages, and worked as a herdsman. 'Brown's learning while still a shepherd was so exceptional that he became the object of malign suspicion instead of wonderment. The allegation that he was in league with the devil he had to live down, but such hostility may have induced him to gain employment as a travelling salesman—a chapman—in Fife, Kinross-shire, and the Lothians. His consuming interest in books, however, including religious works he found in the homes he called at, displaced the business of selling, and he was given up as "fit for nothing else but for being a scholar" (Mackenzie, 49)' (ODNB).
His 1778 Self-Interpreting Bible remained in print until the twentieth century. Brown had 'transferred lists, tables, and other such aids from his dictionary. The Bible was a far more substantial work, which did not prevent its becoming, as Robert Burns bore out, as familiar in Presbyterian households as John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and Thomas Boston's Human Nature in its Fourfold State. Brown's text was furnished with a battery of cross-references, minor marginal notes, short introductions to each book, a summary of contents at the head of each chapter, ‘reflections’ on each chapter - in effect applying its message to readers - and explanatory footnotes. A lengthy introduction deals with the Bible's authority and inspiration, its interpretation, and biblical history from creation. All were intended, as the title made clear, to make the Bible accessible to the humblest reader, unlike much biblical scholarship today (ibid.).