There are thousands of different English language editions of the Bible in the World today, but there are only a few that are historical and notable enough for any serious collector or library. Following is a list of these few Bibles with the Tyndale 1534 being the rarest and the best.
Because of William Tyndale, all these great Bibles came into use and transformed both England and the World. Every writer and poet in English, including Shakespeare, owes William Tyndale a debt of gratitude for the modern and beautiful English language they now use.
1. Tyndale 1534 New Testament of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Many other editions of William Tyndale’s Bible continued to be published until 1566, thirty years after Tyndale's execution in1536.
2. Miles Coverdale’s Bible 1537. Translated from Latin and German, this Bible was printed in Southwark, London by James Nycolson thus giving it the glory of being the first English language Bible to be published in England. Miles Coverdale had published an English Bible in Cologne, Germany in 1535, but it was no match for Tyndale’s brilliant English translation of 1534. Miles Coverdale did leave to posterity a permanent memorial of his genius, however, in his very musical version of the Psalter which, having later passed into the Book of Common Prayer, endeared itself to many generations of Church of England adherents.
3. Rogers-Matthew and Taverner Bibles 1537-1539. The Matthew Bible, also known as Matthew's Version, was first published in 1537 by John Rogers, under the pseudonym "Thomas Matthew". Richard Taverner published a revision of it in 1539. In his Bible, John Rogers, (a friend of William Tyndale), combined the New Testament of Tyndale and as much of the Old Testament as Tyndale had been able to translate before being captured and put to death in 1536. The translations of Miles Coverdale from German and Latin sources completed the Old Testament and the Apocrypha (except the Apocryphal Prayer of Manasses). The first Matthew Bibles were printed by Richard Grafton in Hamburg. Later editions were printed in London, the last of four appearing in 1551. The London printings were by Thomas Raynalde, William Hyll, John Daye and William Seres.
4. The “Great Bible” 1539-1569. Printed as a folio and published by Richard Grafton & Edward Whitchurch in London, this was a revision of Coverdale’s Bible of 1537. Working under Thomas Cromwell’s patronage and the direct authority of Archbishop Cranmer, Coverdale himself made the revisions. Seven folio editions of this Bible were issued between 1539 and 1541. It was a considerable improvement over Coverdale’s Bible of 1535.
5. The Geneva Bible 1568-1644. Also known as the “Puritan” or “Breeches” Bible, it was produced in Geneva, Switzerland by English exiles who were Nonconformists i.e they did not conform to the practices and pronouncements of the established Church of England. They were under the influence of John Calvin, a French theologian and pastor who was a major figure during the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century. The first Geneva Bible was published in that city in 1568. Sixteen years later the Geneva Bible was published in London by Christopher Barker who, in 1576, had started on his career as a Bible printer after having obtained the privilege of printing the Geneva version of the Bible in England. Between 1560 and 1644, over 200 editions of the Geneva Bible were published. It was the first English Bible to use Roman type and to divide the chapters into verses.
6. The Bishop’s Bible 1568-1606. Undertaken by Archbishop Parker to give the Episcopal Church a Bible free from the glosses to be found in the Puritan Geneva Bible, it was translated without any lay scholars. Twenty editions were issued. The 1602 Edition was the basis of the King James Bible.
7. 1st Rheims New Testament 1582. Published by John Fogny, this was the first Catholic New Testament in English. A second edition was published in 1602, a third in 1610 and a fourth was published in 1633.
8. The King James’ Authorised Version of 1611(Folio). Never officially authorised, it was the result of a conference with the King by the Church and Puritan parties in 1604. Fifty-four translators, divided into six companies, were appointed for the task. They were paid out of church funds and given ecclesiastical preferments when vacancies arose. In spite of many errors in early issues, and the reprinting over more than three centuries of its 17th century language, the 1611 is still felt to be the noblest monument of English literature. Two version of the 1611 were printed, known as the “He” and the “She” because of a famous error in Ruth 3:15 where “And she took it up, and went into the city” was printed as “And he took it up, and went into the city”. The King James Authorised Version of the Bible has been the standard version since 1611. Notably, the New Testament in the King James Version is 83% Tyndale's, and in the Old Testament 76% is Tyndale’s, thus indicating the importance of his work.
Owen Felix O'Neill
Owner Felix Rare Books