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1611 King James Bible: 400th Anniversary

 Bible Translators: Revolutionaries or Reformers?

 

Latin, Greek and Polyglot

 

Anton Koberger, Biblia Latina (Nuremberg, 1478)

An incunable, and the earliest bible held in our collections. It is the third Latin Bible of the renowned German printer Anton Koberger, who was probably the first entrepreneurial publisher in history, with sales outlets in Budapest, Cologne, Frankfurt, Lyons, Paris, Vienna and Warsaw.  

 

Brian Walton, Biblia sacra polyglotta, complectentia textus originales, Hebraicum, cum Pentateucho Samaritano, Chaldaicum, Graecum (London, 1657)

The celebrated ‘London Polyglot’ of 1657, comprising six volumes, edited by the English Bishop Brian Walton. Regarded by many as the most scholarly polyglot Bible ever produced, its text is in nine languages but no one book of the Bible is printed in all of them. The languages are Hebrew, Greek, Samaritan, Aramaic, Latin, Syriac, Ethiopic, Arabic and Persian.

 

Brian Walton, Biblia sacra polyglotta, complectentia textus originales, Hebraicum, cum Pentateucho Samaritano, Chaldaicum, Graecum (London, 1657)

 

Nicholaus Gerbel, Novum Testamentum Graece (Hagenau, 1521)

The Gospels and Acts of the New Testament were written by anonymous authors between the mid-1st and the mid-2nd century AD in Koine Greek, the lingua franca of the Eastern provinces of the Roma Empire at that time. In the 16th century, Desidierus Erasmus of Rotterdam used ancient Greek manuscripts of the so called Byzantine text-type to publish a synchronized Latin and Greek version of the texts in 1516, which marks the first printed edition of the New Testament. It later became the textus receptus (Received Text), i.e. the translation base, for the early Reformation-era Testaments. The bible on display, printed by Thomas Anshelm, is the earliest separate edition of the New Testament in Greek, and the first in a size smaller than folio. The text follows Erasmus' second edition, with a few editorial variations by Nicolaus Gerbel.

 

Jacob Mareschal (printer), Biblia diligentissime emendate cum concordantiis… (Lyon, 1514)

The standard Latin version of the Bible is largely the result of the labours of St. Jerome in the late 4th-century. By the 13th century this revision had come to be called the versio vulgata, that is, the ‘commonly used translation’, and ultimately it became the definitive and officially promulgated Latin version of the Bible in the Roman Catholic Church.

On display is a finely illustrated edition of the Vulgate with full-page cut of the Creation in six compartments, numerous small woodcuts and figured and ornamental initials throughout.

 

Jacob Mareschal (printer), Biblia diligentissime emendate cum concordantiis… (Lyon, 1514)

 

Johann Bebel, ΤΗΣ ΚΑΙΝΗΣ ΔΙΑΘΗΚΗΣ ΑΠΑΝΤΑ. Noui Testamenti omni (Basle, 1531)

A richly annotated reprint of Bebel’s Greek edition of 1524. The title-page is decorated with four metal cuts, representing the symbols of the four Evangelists, by Urs Graf, a renowned Swiss draftsman and engraver. It was edited by Conrad Pellican, and has a preface by Oecolampadius, the German reformer.

 

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Pioneers: Luther and Tyndale

 

Martin Luther, Jesus : das New Testament Teütsch mit schönen Figuren (Augsburg, 1524)

Luther, though not the first, is by far the greatest translator of the German Bible. His versions of the New Testament (1522) and of the complete bible (1534) swiftly superseded the older translations, and have not been surpassed by any successor.  He achieved his main objective of making the Bible more accessible by staying close to the vernacular of the ordinary people or ‘looking them on the mouth’, as he put it. The result of his efforts is considered a landmark in German literature, which fostered the development of a standard version of the German language, added several principles to the art of translation, and also influenced the translation into English of the King James Bible. This is a an early reprint of Luther’s New Testament, printed by Johann Schoensperger and illustrated with large woodcuts by Hans Leonhard Schaeufelein.

 

William Tyndale, The newe testament of our Sauiour Jesu Christe... (London, 1552)

In 1522, the same year Martin Luther printed his version of the New Testament, Tyndale proposed to create a New Testament in the English vernacular. Rather than work from the Latin Vulgate, Tyndale translated from the original Hebrew and Greek - a decision that was to provoke opposition from the ecclesiastical authorities. Consequently, copies of the first editions smuggled into England were prohibited and destroyed. Tyndale was later arrested and executed. Nevertheless, the virtue of Tyndale’s English is attested by the survival of around 80% of it in the Authorized version of 1611 and by the coining of several terms and phrases that remain familiar to us today, e.g., ‘scapegoat’, ‘let there be light’, ‘a man after his own heart’, ‘broken-hearted’.  This is the earliest of three illustrated quarto editions printed by Richard Jugge with a revised text and wood-cut embellishments.

 

William Tyndale, The newe testament of our Sauiour Jesu Christe... (London, 1552)

 

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Authorised Bibles

 

The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament and the New…by His Maiesties speciall Commandement. Appointed to be read in Churches (London, 1611-13)

The foundation for the production of the King James Version was laid when King James I took up a proposal put forward by John Reynolds, a leader of the Puritans, at the Hampton Court Conference (1604). The idea was to produce one translation that the Church might be ‘bound to… and none other’. Although the King James Bible has come to be known as the Authorized Version, there is no evidence that it was ever publicly sanctioned by Convocation, or by Parliament, or by the King. Only slowly, by the monopoly of government, and force of its linguistic and scholarly excellence, did King James’ version attain its commanding position among the different English Bible translation, a position it retains to the present day. This is the second edition of two marginally distinct folio editions that were published in 1611.

 

The Holy Bible, Conteyning the Old Testament and the New…by His Maiesties speciall Commandement. Appointed to be read in Churches (London, 1611-13)

 

Myles Coverdale (ed.) The Byble in Englyshe of the largest and greatest volume…  (London, 1541)

A revision of Matthew’s version (1537), this is known as the ‘Great Bible’ deriving from its size and from Thomas Cromwell referring to it as ‘the holy bible of the largest volume’. Not satisfied with the existing translations, Cromwell commissioned Coverdale to prepare yet another translation, which eventually, by virtue of a decree by King Henry VIII, became the only English Bible version to have ever actually been authorized. The title page, traditionally ascribed to Hans Holbein, shows the King handing out a copy of the Bible to Cromwell and Archbishop Cranmer, who then pass them on to the loyal nobility and clergy respectively.

 

Myles Coverdale (ed.) The Byble in Englyshe of the largest and greatest volume…  (London, 1541)

 

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Battle of the Translations!

 

Miles Coverdale, The whole Byble, that is the holy scripture of the Olde and Newe testament faithfully translated into Englyshe by Myles Couerdale, and newly our sene and correcte...  (Zurich, 1550)

The latest reprint of Coverdale’s version issued during his lifetime. Coverdale was a Yorkshireman educated at Cambridge, who spent many years on the Continent. He had no great knowledge of Hebrew or Greek, but instead used Tyndale’s work as well as Latin and German versions of the New and Old Testament to issue the first complete printed English Bible in 1535. Its printing coincided with the ecclesiastical reforms of Henry VIII, who allowed the Bible to circulate freely in England, though it was not authorised for use in churches.

 

Gregory Martin et al, The New Testament of Iesus Christ faithfully translated into English… (Rheims, 1633)

The fourth edition of the Rheims New Testament. Its engravings include portraits of the four Evangelists and a representation of the Day of Pentecost. The Rheims New Testament, which was prepared by theologians at the centre of English Catholicism in exile during Elizabeth's restoration of Protestantism, the College at Rheims, was the first Roman Catholic version in English. As a result of its strict adherence to the Latin Vulgate, this translation is often stilted, and sometimes even unintelligible. Hence, this Bible version, despite every effort by Catholic authorities to press the distinctive teachings of Rome against “the intolerable ignorance and importunity of the heretics of this time”, has never commanded much success. Nevertheless, many of its phrases were later silently adopted by the editors of King James Version.

 

Gregory Martin et al, The New Testament of Iesus Christ faithfully translated into English… (Rheims, 1633)

 

William Whittingham, Thomas Sampson, Anthony Gilby, The Bible: That is, the Holy Scriptures contained in the Olde and Newe Testament... (London, 1616)

This is a copy of the last folio edition of the Geneva Bible that was printed in England. The Geneva Version originated with the English protestant exiles at Geneva, where it was first issued in 1560. It was the first English Bible to be printed in Roman type, with verse divisions, rendering it the earliest study bible, which allows the reader to cross-reference between different bible sections. It became the primary Bible of the 16th century Protestantism, was used by Shakespeare, Cromwell, Milton and others, and was one of the Bibles carried along by the pilgrims on the Mayflower to America – all of this bearing witness to its immense popularity, which prevailed until the 17th century even decades after the King James Bible was published.

 

Matthew Parker et al, The holie Bible : conteynyng the Olde Testament and the Newe (London, 1568)

The first issue of the version known as the Bishops' Bible (alias: Treacle Bible or Gentlemen's Bible). It is a revision of the Great Bible, undertaken by Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury, with the assistance of many bishops and well known Biblical scholars, who were united in their disapproval of the Geneva translation from the school of Calvin. An effort was made that it alone should be licensed ‘to draw to one uniformity’, but this license was never granted. However, it became the primary bible to be used in churches, and served as a main basis for the King James Bible, which is why it is sometimes referred to as a ‘rough draft’ of that.

 

Matthew Parker et al, The holie Bible : conteynyng the Olde Testament and the Newe (London, 1568)

 

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Rarities

 

Nicholaus Brylinger, Bibell. Das ist alle bücher allts vn[d] neüws Testaments, auß Hebreischer vnd Griechischer jhren vrsprünglichen sprachen mit allem fleiß vnd auffs aller treüwlichest verteütschet (Basel, 1552)

Soon after the publication of Luther´s Bible translations, reprints in various German dialects were published, much to Luther’s displeasure, In 1552 Nicolaus Brylinger of Basel published a rather unique Bible edition, which was a mixture of the Luther text and the Zurich Bible by Christoph Froschauer. The small illustrations are almost identical with those by Hans Holbein in the Zurich Bible. It was published in very small print runs but did not achieve success. Today, this edition is very rare and apparently only three other libraries worldwide own a copy of it.

 

The Holy Bible Conteyning the Old Testament and the New (London, 1629)

A finely illuminated folio edition of the King James Bibles bound together with the Book of Common Prayer. Among the numerous decorative elements, the colourful handmade illustrations, highlighted initials, and the red ruling of the text throughout, are particularly noteworthy.

 

The Holy Bible Conteyning the Old Testament and the New (London, 1629)

 

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Continental Editions

 

Everhardus Van der Hooght, Biblia Hebraica, secundum ultima editionem Jos. Athiae, a Johanne Leusden denuo Recognitam ... (Amsterdam and Utrecht, 1705)

The first edition of the Hebrew Bible by the Dutch theologian and Hebraist, Everhardus van der Hooght, prepared from an earlier version by Athias and Leusden, without utilizing manuscripts of the Masoretic Text, i.e. the name used in Judaism for the authoritative text of the Hebrew Bible. Due to his attention to the smallest details and the printer's care, Van der Hooght’s Hebrew version proved so popular that it was dubbed ‘the parent of the ordinary reprints’ and became the basis for most of Hebrew Bibles in the 18th and 19th century.

 

Jacob Dorta and J. A. Vulpa, La Sacra Bibla; quai ais Tuotla Sancta Scrittra... (Scuol, 1678/79)

Romansch is one of the four national languages in Switzerland, and is spoken by the residents of the canton of Graubuenden. This is the first edition of the whole Bible in Romansch, in the Lower Engadine dialect, translated from Hebrew and Greek by Jacob Dorta and J. A. Vulpius.

 

Pierre Robert Olivetan, La Bible. Que est toute la saincte. Escriture du vieil et nouveau Testament…  (Amsterdam, 1635)

Pierre Robert Olivetan (1506-1538) came from the town of Noyon in Picardy and was a cousin of John Calvin, the influential French/Swiss theologian and pastor during the Protestant Reformation. This is a later edition of Olivetan’s bible translation of 1535, alias the Neuchatel Bible, and was the second complete Bible in French. It was also the first true Protestant version and was adopted by the Reformed Church of Geneva. Despite the acceptance Olivetan’s version has obtained, it must be noted that no French translation has achieved anything like the universal authority of the standard versions in England and Germany. This is mainly due to the fact that the sixteenth century saw an unparalleled transformation of the French language resulting in any translation becoming archaic soon after its production.

 

Johann Dietenberger, Bibel, Das ist, Alle Bücher Alts und News Testaments... (Cologne, 1550)

Luther’s Bible not only triggered a large number of Protestant Bible-translations, it also provoked his Catholic opponents to attempt at three different times to lessen Luther’s own overwhelming success in this field by producing their own German version. Though more correct than Luther in a number of passages, they slavishly conformed to the Vulgate, which made their style stiff and heavy. Furthermore, they frequently copied the very language of Luther, so that he could say with truth, ‘The Papists steal my German of which they knew little before, and they do not thank me for it, but rather use it against me’. The first complete Bible produced in that manner was the Dietenberger-Bibel, first published in 1534. On display is one of the rare new editions of the basic version that were printed until 1550.

 

Antonio Brucioli, La Biblia. Quale conteine i sacri libri del Vecchio Testamento… (Venice, 1538)

Antonio Brucioli, an Italian humanist, religious thinker, publisher and writer, was born in Florence, where he was implicated in a foiled plot to assassinate Cardinal Giulio Medici in 1522. Banished from his hometown and already suspected of heresy, this man of great versatility was responsible for the first translation of the complete Bible into Italian in 1538. This is the second edition of his version, which enjoyed a considerable success throughout the 16th century, especially among Italian Protestants, although, being a layman, his style is often considered rough and obscure in parts. The Roman Catholic Church never concluded peace with him, which is why his translation was placed on the stringent Index of Pope Paul IV in 1555.

 

Henrik Peetersen van Middelborch, Den Bibel: Tgheheele oude en de Nyeuwe Testamet met groter beersticheyt na de Latynche text ghecorigeert (Antwerp, 1541)

Bible translations form a regular part of all lists of forbidden books. In the Netherlands the Faculty of Theology at Louvain published an Index in 1546 that prohibited 42 bible editions in the Dutch language. Most of the forbidden bibles on the index did not adhere to the Vulgate text, the standard church text at that time. Despite mostly staying close to the Vulgate text, this bible edition by van Middelburch was one of three complete bibles in the Netherlands to be forbidden. However, Van Middelburch announces on the title page ‘in the margin of the book alterations [...] from the Hebrew and [...] from the Greek’, as well as marginal historical and geographical data, and summaries above the chapters.

 

Henrik Peetersen van Middelborch, Den Bibel: Tgheheele oude en de Nyeuwe Testamet met groter beersticheyt na de Latynche text ghecorigeert (Antwerp, 1541)

 

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Celtic Languages

 

[Manx New Testament] Conaant Noa… (London, 1815)

Reprint of the first Manx New Testament of 1775.

 

[Irish New Testament] Tiomna Nuadh… (London, 1681)

The second edition of the earlier first 1602 edition of the New Testament in Irish.

 

[Bible in Gaelic] Leabhraichean an t-Seann Tiomnaidh agus an Tiomnaidh Nuaidh : air an tarruing o na ceud chanainibh chum Gaelic Albannaich (Duin Edin [Edinburgh], 1783)

This translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew was prepared under the auspices of the Scottish S.P.C.K. (Darlow and Moule).

 

[Breton New Testament] Testament Nevez… (Angoulem, 1827)

First printing of the New Testment into Breton, by Le Gonidec, revised by Rev. T. Price (Carnhuanawc of Crickhowell). The complete Bible in Breton was not printed until 1866.

 

Y Beibl Cysegr-lan, sef y Hen Destament, a’r Newydd (London, 1588)

The first complete Bible in Welsh, translated and edited by William Morgan, D.D. He was helped by many people, but Morgan’s own rich translation made this the literary standard for the Welsh language for  centuries to come: a masterpiece of a translation.

 

Y Beibl Cysegr-lan, sef y Hen Destament, a’r Newydd (London, 1588)

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