Published online by Cambridge University Press: 16 March 2021
Chapter 5 begins with a description of a median Bible from the period, a quarto printed in 1728, its suprising contents, and the layout of a typical page of text. The ideal reader called for by this Bible is compared to reading practices prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer, which was often bound in as a kind of preface to eighteenth-century Bibles; certain physical features of the Bible, such as cross-referenced verses and chronological years typically printed in the margins; and the reading practices prescribed by devotional works such as The Whole Duty of Man. The ideal Bible reader turns out to be intensely self-critical, purposefully withdrawn from the narrative movement of both scripture and ordinary time. In other words, the typical eighteenth-century Bible and its accompanying devotional practices teach readers to resist narrative, to keep the world at arm’s length, enabling them to step back from the flow of biblical narrative and, for the moment of reading, the flow of their own lives.