I don’t know what I’ll be writing about next on BibleQuestions.info. I’ve spent over a year writing about Greek New Testament manuscripts and Textual Criticism, and I’ve decided to take a break. I will probably write some individual articles, or maybe a short series. Writing a long series take an enormous amount of time to do the research.
I’m currently working on a series about English Bible Versions, but the topic will take a lot more time than I had originally anticipated. The King James Version has played a pivotal role in Christianity, the development of the English language, and western civilization, so I have spending quite a bit of time researching it. Some of the projects I’ve been working on in preparation for this series include:
Early King James Version Bibles
The picture below is a page I purchased with Exodus 3:14-4:11 (the back has Exodus 4:12-5:6a), from the first printing of the King James Version (a.k.a. Authorized Version) in 1611.
There have been many printings of the King James Version, but I’m focusing on the first 50 years or so. I’d like to learn how to identify the approximate year when a Bible was printed, and by which printer. There are a number of clues that can be used:
- Page size
- Print area
- Border lines
- Number of lines per page
- Font style
- Font size
- Leaf and/or page numbers
- Use of the letter ‘v’ rather than ‘u’1
I suspect there are more clues that I’m not aware of yet to identify a printing. You can see some of these differences in the pages below, both of them title pages for the book of Psalms, and both of them printed before 1650.
Movable type printing
The movable type printing press was introduced to Europe by Johannes Gutenberg, about 1450-1455; the first book printed was the Latin Vulgate Bible. Each character is set by hand, so printing an entire Bible was extremely time consuming. The characters are cast in lead backwards, so when ink and paper are applied, the type will print the text correctly. The closest font I could find (and afford) to the Black Letter font used in the early printing of the King James Version is called Engravers Old English.
Genealogy of English Bible Versions
The Wycliffe Bible is the first complete (Old and New Testaments) English Bible to be translated (from Latin), about 1382. That was before the use of printing presses, so each one was copied by hand. The New Testament by William Tyndale (translated from Greek) was completed in 1526, so it was the first English Bible printed on a printing press. During my studies, I became interested in how English versions are related. Here’s a small snippet of the genealogy of English Bible Versions I’m working on (black is English; green is Greek; red is Latin; yellow is German). The full graph currently has over 300 English Bibles and revisions (including full Bibles, Old Testaments or New Testaments) on it (and some in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Syriac, Aramaic and German). A large percentage of the English Bibles are descendants of the King James Version.
I’m expecting these projects to take a while to complete. I’ve been working on the genealogy for over six months already, but I’m still trying to fill in some blanks. Over the next few week, I’ll decide what types of articles I want to write while I continue my research of English Bible versions.