Various Translations Of The Bible
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
It is generally held that the first translation of the Bible into English was made by John Wicliff, who was born at Wicliff in York-shire, and educated at Merton College in Oxford ; he translated it from the Latin Bibles then in use, as the Saxon versions had been done before. This translation must have been made some time before the year 1384, when Wicliff died. Aug. Calmet says it is not known that this translation was ever printed, but that there are several MSS. of it in England. The same learned Benedictine also informs us that John Trevisa is supposed to be the first who translated the Bible into English, and that his translation was finished in the year 1357. This John Trevisa was vicar of Berkley in Gloucestershire. Afterwards there was a revival made of Wicliff's translation by some of his followers ; or, as some think, a new version with several corrections; and these are all the English translations of the whole Bible (as far as I can find), that were made before the art of printing was invented.
In the year 1526, William Tindal, a Welchman, but educated at Oxford, first printed his New Testament in English in octavo, at Antwerp, where he then resided. This translation was not made, as the former ones had been, from the Vulgate Latin, but from the original Greek. About four years after this he published the Pentateuch in English, from the original Hebrew ; and continued to translate several other books of the Old Testament, till the time of his death, which was at Tilford, or Wilford, near Bruxells, in the year 1536, where he was first strangled, then publickly burnt. But the year before this, the whole Bible was translated into English by Myles Coverdale, a native of Yorkshire, but residing somewhere beyond sea, was published in folio, and dedicated to King Henry VIII. Of this Bible, it is said, there were only two more editions, one in a large quarto, in 1550, and another in 1553. Some suppose this version' was made part by Tindal, and part by Coverdale.
In 1537, Matthew's Bible, as it was called, was printed with the king's license ; of which there was another edition in 155 I. Mr. Lewis (" Hist. of Transl. of Bib.," p. III) is of opinion that this Tho. Matthew is a fictitious name, and that one John Rogers was the translator, or at least the publisher of that edition. This John Rogers was educated at Cambridge, and became acquainted with Tindal at Antwerp; but in Queen Mary's reign (being then in England) he was burnt on account of his printing that Bible.
In the year 1539, Matthew's Bible was published with some alterations and, corrections, in a large folio, printed by Grafton and Whitchurch, which was called Cranmer's or the Great Bible ; and in the same year also, one Taverner published another edition of this Bible; in this edition, likewise, some other corrections were made. Taverner was born at Brisley, a village in Norfolk, anno 1505.
The next revision and publication of the Bible was made under the care and direction of Archbishop Parker, and as several bishops were employed in that revision, it is sometimes called the Bishops' Bible. This was printed by Richard Jugge, anno 1568, in folio, and had several impressions afterward.
The Roman Catholicks (that were English), 1582, made a translation of the New Testament in English, from what they call the authentical Latin (meaning the Vulgate), and because it was printed at Rheims, a city of Campagne, in France, where they then chiefly re-sided, it is usually called the Romish Testament ; and in 1609 they also printed the Old Testament at Douay.
In the reign of King James I., a new, complete, and more accurate translation of all the Holy Scriptures was made by fifty-four learned men, appointed by royal authority for that purpose, and it was printed in folio in 1611, they having spent about three years in completing it.
Some English refugees, that fled to Geneva in Queen Mary's time, on account of their religion, made a translation of the New Testament into their native language ; and that was printed at Geneva by Conrad Badius, in 1557, and was the first New Testament in English with the distinction of verses by numeral figures. The division of the sacred books into chapters is ascribed to Hugo de Santo Claro, a Dominican monk, who died in 1262. But this division into verses marked by numeral figures was first made by Robert Stephens, the learned and celebrated French printer, in a Greek Testament, which he printed in 1551 ; and four years after that the vulgar Latin Bible was divided in the same manner. But it was not till the year 1560 that the whole Bible was printed at Geneva, which edition is in quarto.
I have by me an edition of the Bible in English, containing the Old and New Testament and Apocrypha, which escaped the search of the diligent Mr. Lewis ; it is a small quarto, divided into chapters, but not distinguished by verses. I know not where it was printed, it being defective at the beginning and end. But Mr. Ames, secretary to the society of antiquaries, has one of the same edition, in his curious collection, that is complete. He informs me his was printed by R. Grafton, anno 1553. Before this information was given me, I was of opinion that mine had been printed somewhere abroad, because the paper is made yellow by some art ; why it was so stained, I can give no good reason, not having observed any books printed on paper of that colour that I remember in England.