History of the Bible in English – Treasures display

2011 is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. To mark this achievement, we have put on a Treasures Display which charts the story of the Bible in English. It runs from 4 November 2011 until 8 January 2012.

The display starts with two Wycliffite manuscripts dating from the late 14th and early 15th century, and finishes with a first edition copy of the King James Bible of 1611.

It didn’t get off to a great start: it was not an immediate bestseller, and because it relied heavily on Tyndale’s translation from the 1530s its language was already a bit archaic when it was published. It was not licensed by James VI / I because it was only regarded as a revision; and it was not authorised until 1824. Nevertheless, the King James Bible has become the most famous and popular bible in English, and is still used in churches today, at least on some occasions: the poetry of its language has been unsurpassed, even if modern translations are linguistically more accurate.KJV-t.p

You can also see copies of the first complete authorised Bible in English (1537), the Great Bible of 1539 which measures 34cm x  24 cm (closed!), the Geneva Bible produced by Protestant exiles in 1560, the first Catholic Bible in English (1582), a copy of the beautiful Bishops’ Bible of 1568, and portraits of John Wyclif, William Tyndale and King James VI / I.