Most students of the King James Bible are familiar with the history of English Bible translation. They have heard of William Tyndale and his sacrifice in bringing us the New Testament in English, the first translation from the Greek ever in our language. Tyndale paid for his love of the Bible with his death and burning at the stake in 1536.
After Tyndale, there was the Coverdale Bible and then Matthew’s Bible, the first Bible actually endorsed by the nation of England. The jewel of the Reformation was of course, the Geneva Bible with its controversial study notes. This Bible reigned supreme for a hundred years or so.
The King James Bible took its place and gradually stole the hearts of all Englishmen. It is undoubtedly the finest translation of the bunch and continues to be used widely to this day.
I remember a little over ten years ago, when I had the privilege of opening an early printing of the King James Version — a 1612 text, I believe. I got to handle a 1535 Tyndale New Testament and see authentic pages from a 1611 King James. I was with a group of college students visiting the Rare Book Reading Room in the library at Colgate University. I still get shivers thinking about that experience. I got to see the “f”-s used as “s”-s, the “y” abbreviation used for “the”, and the strange Gothic block print, which is very hard to read. But that wasn’t what thrilled me. Thinking of the treasure of the Bible and the sacrifice of those who gave it to us, was what made that moment so special.
The next best thing to seeing the original Bibles yourself, is having a reprint edition. I have treasured a 1611 edition reprint from Hendrickson Publishers for several years now. The font is more friendly to the eye, than the original 1611 font, but other than that all the orthography is original. Seeing the marginal notes and reading the KJV translation of the Apocrypha are some of the unique pleasures that reading from the 1611 edition offers. Occasionally, comparing that edition with a more modern KJV will also reveal a place where later KJV’s improved the text (or possibly departed from it) — which appeals to my critical eye.
Hendrickson Publishers now has a commemorative 400th Anniversary edition, of the 1611 Bible. I will be giving away one copy of that Bible here on our site in the next few weeks. Details will be forthcoming. Hendrickson also has special reprint editions of Tyndale’s 1526 New Testament, Matthew’s 1537 Bible, and the 1560 edition of the Geneva Bible. Throughout the next month I’ll be posting a brief review of each of these historic Bibles, leading up to the special giveaway of the 1611 Anniversary Edition, King James Bible.