From Papyri to King James:
The Transmission of the English Bible

Case 5

Coverdale Bible, Zurich?, A.D. 1535

A leaf from the editio princeps (that is, the first printed edition) of the complete Bible in English, translated and edited by Miles Coverdale, a Yorkshireman. It was probably printed in Zurich. Coverdale leaned heavily on Tyndale's translation, Luther's German version, and a Swiss-German text by Zwingli and Leo Juda, and the Latin version of Sanctes Pagninus rather than the Greek and Hebrew originals. Coverdale's version included the Apocrypha (the books between the Testaments) from which a page of the Book of Esdras is shown.


Geneva Bible, Geneva, R. Hall, A.D. 1560

Issued in a smaller, more convenient format than its predecessors, the Geneva Bible was produced by Protestant refugees in Switzerland, after having fled the Roman Catholic persecution in England under Queen Mary. This was the first English Bible to use verse divisions and the first to be printed in Roman type. It was sometimes called the "Breeches Bible," because of the translation of Genesis 3:7: "they [Adam and Eve] knewe that they were naked, and they sewed fig tre leaues together, and made them selues breeches."


Case 6

The Great Bible, London, E. Whitchurch, A.D. 1541

First published in 1539, the Great Bible is a revision by Coverdale of Matthew's Bible (1537), corrected with the aid of Sebastian Münster's translation of the Old Testament, Erasmus's version of the New Testament, the Vulgate, and other sources. Coverdale worked under the patronage of Thomas Cromwell; thus the version is sometimes called "Cromwell's Bible." It is also know as "Cranmer's Version," because of the addition of a prologue by Thomas Cranmer for the 1540 edition.

On display is the sixth issue of the Great Bible, the fifth with Cranmer's prologue. It was printed by Edward Whitchurch who, eight years later, also printed one of the issues of the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer.


Case 7

King James Bible, London, R. Barker, A.D. 1611

Sometimes called the Authorized Version, this was, for 350 years, the standard version wherever the English language was spoken. The translation was enthusiastically supported by James I of England. It is a revision of the Bishop's Bible, taking into account the version by Tyndale, Matthew, and Coverdale as well as the Great and Geneva Bibles. There were two issues in 1611, sometimes distinguished as the "He" and "She" Bible. The copy exhibited is the "She" (corrected) version in which Ruth 3:15 reads: " and she went into the city." Shown here is Genealogy 1.

Thank you for viewing this on-line exhibit! A CD-ROM version of the exhibit, The Evolution of the English Bible, with extensive additions and many images illustrating over thirty different texts, is also available from the University of Michigan Press. This exhibit is on display annually in the Special Collections Library, in December or January.

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From Papyri to King James:
Review | Introduction | Cases 1-2 | Cases 3-4 | Cases 5-7

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U-M Papyrus Collection | Special Collections Library