Marking Ester’s Bible

Ester Ried owned a Bible—a “nice, proper-looking Bible” that she read from time to time when she remembered to do so.

If her Bible was at hand when Ester was ready to read, she used it. If not, she took her sister Sadie’s, or picked up “the old one on a shelf in the corner, with one cover and part of Revelation missing.

But when Ester traveled to New York to visit her cousin Abbie, she packed in such haste, she forgot to add her Bible to her suitcase—a circumstance Abbie immediately tried to correct.

“Oh, I am sorry—you will miss it so much! Do you have a thousand little private marks in your Bible that nobody else understands? I have a great habit of reading in that way. Well, I’ll bring you one from the library that you may mark just as much as you please.”

Mark in a Bible? That was an entirely new concept for Ester.

She had never learned that happy little habit of having a much-used, much-worn, much-loved Bible for her own personal and private use, full of pencil marks and sacred meanings, grown dear from association, and teeming with memories of precious communings.

Once Abbie delivered the Bible to her, Ester began to think the idea of marking certain verses was an excellent one. The only problem was, she didn’t know how to go about it and had only a pencil to at her disposal.

When Isabella wrote Ester Ried in 1870, there were no Bible journal kits, stickers or markers like the ones we can buy in stores today.

Colorful Bible tabs from Etsy.com

And she probably never imagined there would one day be Bibles specifically designed for readers to create their own artwork inspired by a verse on the page, like the one below:

From ScribblingGrace.com

So when Isabella wrote Ester Ried, she had her title character take a much more simple approach; she had Ester merely underline certain Bible verses that had meaning to her, which was a perfectly sensible method for a young lady who was new to regular Bible study. As Ester progressed in her Christian journey, so, too, did her ability to memorize and mark verses that held special meaning for her.

Reverend Dwight Lyman Moody was a friend of Isabella’s family, and a keen proponent of Christians marking their Bibles.

Dwight Lyman Moody

He rarely went anywhere without his Bible, which he called his “Old Sword.”

After the Great Chicago Fire of 1871—a disaster that caused so much loss for so many people—someone asked Rev. Moody what he had lost in the fire. Rev. Moody focused on what was important:

“I have not lost my Bible, or my reputation.”

Anyone who was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the pages of his Old Sword would have seen proof of Rev. Moody’s constant study.

“My Bible is worth a good deal to me because I have so many passages marked that, if I am called upon to speak at any time, I am ready.”

He often told people not to buy a Bible they were unwilling to mark up or write in; and he suggested using a Bible that was printed in a way that offered plenty of room for jotting notes and suggestions.

“Bible-marking should be made the servant of memory; a few words will recall a whole sermon. It sharpens the memory, instead of blunting it, if properly done, because it gives prominence to certain things that catch the eye, which by constant reading you get to learn by heart.”

So what method did Rev. Moody use to mark in his Bible? Below is a plate (unfortunately it’s a little fuzzy after being duplicated many times) that shows his Bible, open to the first chapter of Ephesians. (You can click on the image to see a larger version.)

In addition to notes and references to other verses, he utilized a series of underlines and diagonal lines, which he called “railways.” It may look like a jumble of lines and notes, but his system was really very simple.

In the first column in the page on the right you can see how he used railways to connect words of promise that had meaning to him:

Blessed
Chosen
Accepted
Redemption
Together
Inheritance
Sealed

In the second column he underlined words he identified as “together” words. Then, in the blank area on the page on the left, he cited additional “together” verses he found in Galatians, Colossians, Ephesians, Romans, and I Thessalonians.

Although this system worked for him, Rev. Moody encouraged everyone to find their own methods.

“There is a danger, however, of overdoing a system of marking, and of making your marks more prominent than the Scripture itself. If the system is complicated it becomes a burden, and you are liable to get confused. It is easier to remember the texts than the meaning of your marks.”

In 1884 Rev. Moody wrote an introduction to a book titled How to Mark Your Bible, which incorporated many of the methods he used in his own Bible markings.

The book shares many examples of how to mark your Bible with railway connections and word groups in the same way Rev. Moody did.

You can read the book for free. Just click on the cover to get started.

Do you use markings, colors, stickers or tabs in your Bible?

What marking method works best for you?

Christmas Shopping with Isabella

Julia Ried (in Isabella’s novel of the same name) had ten dollars with which to purchase Christmas gifts for her family and friends.

She knew exactly what she wanted to give her mother, sister Sadie and brother Alfred for Christmas; and since this would be her first Christmas away from home, she even thought out how she would ship the gifts to her family:

I had packed them in imagination in a neat little box, and written the accompanying letter scores of times.

In our modern world, ten dollars doesn’t seem like a lot of money, but in 1873, when Julia Ried was published, those ten dollars went much further than they do today.

For example, Julia could purchase a set of six handkerchiefs to give to Sadie at a cost of only thirty cents:

And since a lady could never have enough handkerchiefs, Julia might instead have opted to give Sadie a dozen of them (with fancy colored borders) at a cost of just 48 cents:

Or, Julia might have purchased for Sadie a knitted cap and scarf set, since such sets were just as popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s as they are now.

For Alfred, Julia might have purchased a new shirt to wear to his job as a store clerk (or even two shirts at these prices):

This full-page newspaper ad from 1912 illustrates other affordable gifts Julia might have chosen for Alfred, from a sturdy pair of gloves to a warm sweater to a new cap (click on the image to see a larger version):

When it came to selecting a gift for her mother, Julia knew no ordinary gift would do. She wrote:

Dear mother, she seemed to think that her first and greatest duty in life was to toil for and spare her children. Patient, faithful, tender mother! Tonight, as I recall her sweet, pale, tired face, I can think of no frown of impatience or anger that ever marred its sweetness. I can think of nothing left undone, that she could do, to smooth the path in which her children trod.

Clearly a special gift was in order for Mrs. Ried. A very pretty sewing box, covered in a sturdy but lovely patterned fabric (called “cretonne”) might have been the perfect gift:

Or she might have chosen for her mother a lovely ladies’ hat pin to add some sparkle to her life:

All of these would have been thoughtful gifts for Julia to send home to her family; but …

If you have read the book, you know that that Julia succumbed to an entirely different temptation when it came to spending her ten dollars—a temptation that left her with no money to buy gifts she wanted to give her family!

As the characters in Isabella’s novels so often did, Julia Ried had to learn many lessons about the dangers of peer pressure and placing trust in the wrong person—lessons that are just as relevant today as they were in 1873.

What do you think of the Christmas gifts in these ads from the late 1800s/early 1900s?

Which gifts would you purchase to give loved ones?