The tome will be put to auction in London on 26 March. A group led by the Baskerville Society has been formed in order to bid for the bible and keep it within Birmingham, Boulton’s birthplace.
Boulton’s bible is considered one of the most important volumes in legacy English printer John Baskerville’s surviving repertoire, due to the quality of its bindings and the use of its end papers. It has also been annotated with details of the Boulton family.
In a statement, the consortium said: “This bible is of great significance to Birmingham as it represents the relationship between the printer John Baskerville and the industrialist Matthew Boulton, two of the most influential figures in the city’s history.
“We feel very strongly that the bible should remain in its ancestral home and be made publicly available.
“As the bible is to be sold at auction, it is impossible to predict exactly how much it will fetch; but it may sell for a considerable sum. Because of this uncertainty, rather than fundraising to help with the purchase we are inviting individuals and organisations to make financial pledges which we can call in if needed.
“Unfortunately, time is against us.”
As the auction date is approaching, the consortium has requested pledges by Friday 21 March at the latest. Depending on the ultimate price of the bid, pledges may be called on in full or in part.
If the bid is successful, the bible will be housed at the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham, which has the appropriate resources to care for it, alongside the university’s other Baskerville holdings.
Those interested in pledging should contact Caroline Archer at Birmingham City University or Malcolm Dick at the University of Birmingham.