Buyer Beware: My experiences with Greatsite.com

 

What a day. My mum’s cat died and Greatsite.com banned me as a customer from their on-line store.

My first experience with Greatsite was about ten years ago when I purchased their facsimile of (they say) the 1549 Matthew Bible. My readers know that the Matthew Bible was compiled by John Rogers and first published in 1537. Rogers then put out a second edition in 1549, printed by Raynalde and Hill. Greatsite sells a book called the “1549 Matthew-Tyndale Bible.” I called and discussed it with Mr. John Jeffcoat, who is still with the company, and who sold it to me.

When I began to read the Greatsite Matthew Bible, I didn’t like the notes. Theologically, they were ‘off’. I don’t expect to agree with anyone about everything, but these notes were bad. So I did a little more research. Using A. S. Herbert’s Catalogue of Printed Bibles, I compared the preliminary pages of the Greatsite book with version information in Herbert’s catalogue. I discovered that a title page from another bible was interpolated. Then I looked a little further, and discovered that this was actually a pirated version of the Matthew Bible printed by John Daye. The publisher was a renegade bishop named Edmund Becke who drastically changed the notes.

When I contacted Greatsite about this serious problem, Mr. Jeffcoat told me that I was the first person who had ever noticed it. He assured me that they had fired the man who did this. However, they did not stop selling the book as the “1549 Matthew-Tyndale Bible.”

I asked Greatsite to correctly represent this book on their website. In 2016 they made minimal mention of Becke’s involvement on the main index, but then they removed it from there and put it on the product page. They say (as at March 21 2017):

John Rogers, operating under the assumed name “Thomas Matthew” was the first person to ever print a complete English Bible that was translated directly from the original Greek & Hebrew. He took William Tyndale’s New Testament, and completed Tyndale’s work on the Old Testament, publishing his First Edition in 1537.This is a facsimile reproduction of his 1549 Second Edition, containing the fascinating and controversial side notes, sometimes refered to [sic] as the “Becke Edition”.

This is the earliest (oldest) complete English Bible translated directly from the original Greek and Hebrew – straight into English – that we offer in high quality facsimile reproduction form. A genuine original 1549 Matthew-Tyndale Bible is available in the Gold Room of our Ancient Rare Bibles & Books section for tens of thousands of dollars, but this facsimile reproduction is a much more cost-effective alternative.

Needless to say, this does not adequately explain that the notes are not John Rogers’, and that this is not the real Matthew Bible.

The Greatsite Matthew Bible is not “sometimes referred to as the Becke Edition.”  It is the Becke edition. (Their information also has other errors, but that is another topic.)

If readers want to know how to identify Becke’s edition, just go to 1 Peter 3:7. Here his ugly note, called the “wife beater” note, says that if a wife won’t do her duty, her husband should beat it into her head.

Fast forward ten years. For the purposes of my research for The Story of the Matthew Bible, I needed a copy of the 1560 Geneva Bible. Alas, I paid over $125 (Canadian dollars) for a facsimile that is missing the preface and also the index to the books. What else is missing or interpolated, I do not know.

I called Mr. Jeffcoat and said that my facsimile was missing the preliminary pages. Again he told me that I was the first person to “complain.” (I think he meant it as an insult, but I take it as a compliment.) I requested copies of the missing pages. He argued that in those days, books were produced differently. (However, I know a little something about book production, and this is prevarication.) I said that for my research I needed the missing pages. His response was to ask me if I knew what ‘persnickety’ means. The conversation was not heading in a constructive direction, and I soon hung up. Mr. Jeffcoat’s response was to call and try to leave more messages about the meaning of ‘persnickety’. Ultimately I received  a message that I am “banned” from their store and website.

Poor customer relations are not, however, Greatsite’s worst problem. Integrity is the worst problem. Their facsimiles cannot be trusted. Here is what I suspect they do: preliminary pages in old books tend to become damaged, and this reduces the value. So they use damaged books, which cannot be sold for a good price, to compile their facsimiles. Of course, this is just speculation, but given that this is the second facsimile with incorrect preliminary pages, it is not unreasonable.

All things considered, I have decided it is time to warn my readers, many of whom will be naturally interested in the products Greatsite sells. At the very least, no one should buy their ‘Matthew Bible’ unless what they actually want is Becke’s edition. Fortunately Hendrickson sells a facsimile of the real 1537 Matthew Bible, and this for a fraction of the cost.

Mr. Jeffcoat told me that no one except for me cares if the Matthew Bible that they are selling is the real thing. Do you care? Comment below and let me know.

Ruth Magnusson Davis