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(Originally Titled "The Learned Men": The Text Here Used Is That Of "The Learned Men")
Chapter 13: The Bible Printed
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The Bible Printed 

            There was no competition for the job of printing the new Bible. It went to Robert Barker, the royal printer, who also published it. His father, Christopher Barker, had received from Queen Elizabeth the sole right to print English Bibles, books of common prayer, statutes, and proclamations. On the death of Christopher Barker in 1599 the queen had given to his son, Robert Barker, the office of Queen’s Printer for life with the same monopoly. The Barkers and their heirs held the private right to publish the King James Bible for a hundred years.* (*It was Barker who in 1631 printed the so-called “Wicked Bible” with the error which omitted not from the seventh commandment.)

            Also from the Crown, Robert Barker had received in 1603 a lease on the manor of Upton, near Windsor, for twenty years at a rental of twenty pounds a year. Both father and son lived in London at Bacon House in Noble Street, Aldersgate. Their printing shop was nearby in St. Paul’s churchyard at the sign of the Tiger’s Head, a device on the arms of Sir Francis Walsingham, the friend of the Puritans. Thus we may assume that the Barkers shared in the Puritan trend.

            For the new Bible Robert Barker laid out £3500, a large sum even for the royal printer. He appears to have obtained a new cast type, boldface for the text, with lighter Roman letters for the words which have no counterpart in the ancient-language texts but which the learned men had to insert for making sense in English. (In modern editions such words are printed in italic type.) The engraved title page shows Moses and Aaron standing in niches with the seated figures of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John at the corners. This is signed C. Boel – Cornelius Boel, an Antwerp artist. Alas, this 1611 Bible omitted the full-page Garden of Eden, with all the fierce and harmless creatures lying around, that was in the Bishops’ Bible. However, the whole is a handsome, well-printed folio. The linen and rag paper, after more than three hundred years, is tough and pleasant to look at and to touch. The first issue is today as easy to read as ever, though the type face, of course, is antiquated.

            Of the actual printing we know nothing. Who were the humble printers, the craftsmen? Who read the proof? How long did the great process take? What was the selling price? There were two printings of the new Bible in 1611. How many copies were there of each issue? These are questions for which others may sometime find answers.

            We do know that Miles Smith and Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester, saw the volume through the press. Conceivably they read proofs. The handwritten copy from which the printers worked remained in Barker’s possession, though there were complaints against his keeping it. In time it vanished.

            There were, of course, mistakes made by the printers, averaging about one in ten pages. The first folio was known as the “He” Bible from a confusion of pronouns in Ruth 3:15, which made the verse end “and he went into the city.” Corrected, the second folio became the “She” Bible.

            What of the first copies off the press? Did Miles Smith and any or all of the other translators get a free copy of the new Bible? Did they or their churches have to buy copies?

            We may even ask, did Smith have a copy at hand to use? Let us look at some of his sermons, published in 1632, after his death. It is not certain when the sermons were composed but it seems likely that most of them were delivered after 1612. Some of them he may have written while the 1611 Bible was in progress. We would expect that he, of all men, would quote from the work to which he gave his skill.

            However, when he preached on Jeremiah 9:23, 24, the wording of his text differed at two points from that of the King James Bible. Smith said: “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, nor the strong man glory in his strength, neither the rich man glory in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth me.” The 1611 Bible used mighty and might for strong and strength, and there are other, slighter changes.

            When Smith quoted Zechariah 1:5, 6, he also used an older version: “Your fathers, where are they? And do the prophets live for ever? But did not my words and my statutes, which I commanded by my servants the prophets, take hold of your fathers?” Here the King James translators changed the order of the phrases.

            For his sermon on Jeremiah 6:16 Smith used the exact words of the King James Bible: “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.” But he shortened and simplified Ecclesiastes 10:1, saying, “Dead flies corrupt the ointment of the apothecary,” where the 1611 wording is, “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savor.”

            Not only Smith but Lancelot Andrewes and many of the other translators continued to refer to older versions for a long time. Dr. Andrewes, now Bishop of Ely, was still using an old Bible on November I, 1617. Preaching before the king at Whitehall, he took his text – Isaiah 37:3, “The children were come to birth, and there was no strength to deliver them” – from another Bible than the one on which he had labored. He quoted an old phrasing of Deuteronomy 33:17, “With these thou shalt strike thine enemies, and push them as any wild beast.” For Hebrews 12:14 he used, “Without holiness shall no man ever see God,” a reading only a little off the King James. However, when he referred to Ezekiel 33:32, he really let himself go: “But all hearing (as Ezekiel complaineth) a sermon preached no otherwise than we do a ballad sung.” Ezekiel’s complaint in the 1611 Bible is far from that. From Revelation 14:11 Andrewes spoke of “the lake of fire and brimstone, the smoke of which shall ascend for ever more,” which again is hardly a quotation.

            Familiarity with the ancient texts seems to have given the translators what they regarded as a license for private interpretation; perhaps they thought in another tongue and translated as they spoke. This had long been customary with a clergy that was, as Smith said in his preface, “exercised almost from our very cradle” in Latin. And now, for the task just accomplished, they had steeped themselves in Hebrew and Greek.

            But how soon did preachers begin to quote from the new version? We may say fairly that the King James Bible was in some sense a success from the start, going quickly from the two folio editions into smaller quarto and octavo sizes; yet it caught on slowly. It appears that at first both clergy and laymen found fault with the product of the learned men. Once, for instance. Dr. Richard Kilby, the translator in the Old Testament group at Oxford, heard a young parson complain in an earnest sermon that a certain passage should read in a way he stated. After the sermon Dr. Kilby took the young man aside and told him that the group had discussed at length not only his proposed reading but thirteen others; only then had they decided on the phrasing as it appeared. 

            Did other writers of the James I reign adopt the new Bible quickly? Robert Burton published his Anatomy of Melancholy in 1621, after toiling on it for years in his happy study at Christ Church, Oxford. As far as is discoverable, he never used the 1611 Bible, though he lived among some of the chief translators and had come to Christ Church through the efforts of Leonard Hutton, later a translator, then canon there. Thus Burton quoted Romans 1:21, 22: “They were vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was full of darkness. When they professed themselves wise, they became fools.” The 1611 changes in these verses are minor but important to the style. For Job 4:18, he wrote on the same page: “Behold, he found no steadfastness in his servants, and laid folly upon his angels.” Compare with the King James verse: “Behold, he put no trust in his servants; and his angels he charged with folly.” Clearly Burton was working with older Bibles, without getting around to the new version. Just as clearly, the King James reading, with its balanced rhythm, is the better.

            Dr. John Donne, today thought of as poet rather than as preacher, seems to have used the King James version irregularly. In the recent edition of his sermons the first is that preached on April 30, 1615, at Greenwich, on Isaiah 52:13, which is taken from the 1611 Bible. Later in this sermon he quoted, from an early Bible, Isaiah 55:1: “Ho every one that thirsteth come to the waters, and ye that have no silver, come, buy and eat: come, I say, buy wine and milk, without silver and without money.” At Paul’s Cross, March 24, 1617, he made, so one wrote in a letter, “a dainty sermon.” It lasted two and a half hours! There his text, Proverbs 22:11, was from the 1611 version. The now lofty translator, Archbishop Abbot, was present.

            Before the king at Whitehall, April 12, 1618, Donne quoted Job 1:1 from some early Bible: “There was a man in the land of Huz, called Job, an upright and just man that feared God.” At the height of his powers, Christmas Day, 1626, he preached at St. Paul’s on Luke 2:29, 30, using the King James phrasing. There however he cited Isaiah 62:1 from an early Bible: “Oh that thou wouldst rend the heavens and come down.” It was in this sermon that he said, “When my soul prays without any voice, my very body is then a temple.” More and more he now seemed to use the 1611 Bible, for at St. Paul’s on Whitsunday, 1627, though he shortened Acts 2:1-4, he gave virtually the King James wording.

            How much did the King James Bible impress itself on the Plymouth Pilgrims? Three of their preachers, though they never came to Plymouth, were Henry Ainsworth, Henry Jacob, and John Robinson. There is almost nothing to show that any of them ever used the King James Bible.

            Those who cut themselves off from the English Church often chose to divorce themselves from the Church Scriptures too, and to use a Bible less tainted, as it seemed to them – e.g., the Geneva – or to make their own translations, if they were capable of it. Thus Ainsworth rendered some of the Scriptures in his own way while the king’s translators were working. His Psalm 23 is worth giving here. “Jehovah feedeth me, I shall not lack. In folds of budding grass he maketh me to lie down; he easily leadeth me by the waters of rests. He returneth my soul; he leadeth me in the beaten paths of justice, for his name sake. Yea, though I should walk in the valley of the shade of death, I will not fear evil, for thou wilt be with me, thy rod and thy staff they shall comfort me.

            Thou furnishest before me a table in presence of my distresses; thou makest fat my head with oil; my cup is abundant. Doubtless good and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I shall converse in the house of Jehovah to length of days.” This was Psalm 23 as for many years the Pilgrims knew it. They had and preferred all the Psalms in Ainsworth’s somewhat roughened prose. Elder William Brewster, when he died in 1644, left some of Ainsworth’s books.

            Henry Jacob, while in England, engaged in an intense conflict with the translator Thomas Bilson, Bishop of Winchester. Bilson he charged with “equivocation” and “most impertinent, ambiguous and uncertain writing.” The origin of the dispute is obscure, but much of it was about bishops and their supposed functions. Jacob quoted Bilson as saying, “The kingdom and throne which Christ reserved for himself far passeth directing and ordering on outward things in the church which he hath left to others.” Countering, Jacob said, “Nay sure, he hath not left it to others. He still reserveth this authority and dignity to himself under the gospel as well as he did under the law.” To put it bluntly, how Christ governs the church must depend, so it seemed to Jacob, on what the local church, its pastor and its people decide is his will —good Congregational doctrine. We could hardly expect this kindly but determined rebel to lean on the 1611 Bible, which Bishop Bilson had helped keep within the fixed framework of the Church. On John 10:5 Jacob said with feeling, “His sheep hear his voice; a stranger’s voice they will flee from.” He spoke at the synod of Dort which discussed the new Bible. A few years later, about 1622, Jacob crossed the ocean to Virginia and started a pastorate of his own.

            John Robinson, pastor of the Pilgrims at Leyden, and a friend of the Puritan translator Laurence Chaderton, was citing older Scriptures as late as 1625. Thus for Psalm 41:2 he gave, “O blessed is he that prudently attendeth the poor weakling,” which is far from the King James rendering. For I Timothy 3:15 he offered, “that he might know how to converse in the church of God.” (To converse, remember, meant to behave.) From Robinson’s sometimes piquant writings, which include many verses from the old Bibles, we get the picture of a beloved antique.

            The Pilgrims, among them remnants of the Brownists, were almost as much against the Puritans as they were against the high churchmen and the papists. So they were slow, it appears, to accept the King James Bible, put out by those who had harassed them. In the long run the 1611 Bible, because of its stature, triumphed with the Pilgrims as with their old foes, except those in the Church of Rome, and to it they referred all details of daily living.

            In England too, acceptance of the new Bible was to depend on the climate of controversy. That was changing, and eventually the King James version would become a frame of reference to be cited as authority. But at the start it partook of the personal controversies and associations of the translators themselves, and so roused opposition. The old Arminian bitterness was not forgotten, though now, under Bancroft, the state Church had been leaning somewhat toward Arminian doctrines. The beliefs of Calvin that God had destined all events, great and small, were giving way a little to the belief that God destined only in part, with good works of value along with the faith of the elect. It was argued that Calvin’s predestination, so valuable to the Puritans because it freed man from the tyranny of Rome, made God the author of sin and gave false security to those who believed themselves the elect. Besides “Dutch” Thomson, many of the translators, among them Overall, Bois, and Richardson, were counted on the Arminian side. Laurence Chaderton and young Samuel Ward were of the opposition and Bishop Abbot stood firmly opposed; no Arminian could ever appease him. But the king, who spoke out against Arminians abroad, endured them and was even pleasant to them at home. A joke of the time asked. What do the Arminians hold? The answer was, they hold the best deaneries and bishoprics in England.

            Other dissenters still had their troubles. From the Arian heresy evolved, after a long time, the Unitarians. Yet the Church felt it must kill the first of these heretics to speak out in the time of James, without objection from the king who had promised no bloodshed over religion.

            Bartholomew Legate, already mentioned, was one who believed that Jesus was a mere man, that there was no virgin birth, no Incarnation. When he preached this belief, both George Abbot and Lancelot Andrewes of the translators approved his sentence to death. Abbot indeed wrote a letter to Lord Ellesmere, the Lord Chancellor, saying that the king “did not much desire that the Lord Coke should be called” to the trial, “lest by his singularity in opinion he should give stay to the business.” There was no stay; the trial moved to its ruthless end. In Smithfield Market on March 18, 1611, at the urging of Andrewes, Abbot, and other firmly irate divines, the king’s agents burned Bartholomew Legate at the stake.

            A few days later on March 24, the seventh anniversary of James’s accession, Andrewes – now Bishop of Ely – preached before the king at Whitehall, Through times that had been enough to disturb him to the utmost, he had kept his pious bearing. His text was Psalm 118:22-24, “This is the Lord’s day; it is marvelous in our eyes” – a verse he had used previously for thanksgiving after discovery of the Guy Fawkes plot. “This stone is the head,” Andrewes declared, meaning the king, “made by God.” Words spoken in hope, surely, for the last few months must have been for Andrewes a time of most earnest prayer and legitimate expectation.

            Before Christmas the great bell at St. Paul’s had tolled the news that the see of Canterbury was once more vacant. Richard Bancroft died November lo, 1610, before he could hold in his hands the printed Bible he had first opposed at Hampton Court, then had taken under his charge to please the king. Many of the clergy and the people thought with pleasure that at last Lancelot Andrewes, who had a living odor of sainthood, would rise to the summit.

            Ever since the death of Archbishop Whitgift in 1604 and the choice of Bancroft for the great place, Andrewes must have worked with quiet hope in his sermons, in all his acts during those years, and his patient work on the Bible. Though John Bois, Miles Smith, and many others had worked harder on the translation than Andrewes, they were minor figures in the Church, compared with him. The supreme gift of the king could rightly reward his faith and good works as a prelate. Among God’s elect he clearly deserved the chief crown of the righteous or rightly wise, and a long life of power.

            King James delayed. True, Andrewes was among the highest of the high churchmen, and had many potent friends. The king loved his preaching. But on the other hand James, a Scotsman, thought of the Scots. On October 21, 1610, Lancelot Andrewes, George Abbot, and two other bishops had consecrated in the chapel of a London house three bishops of Scotland, the first thus to receive holy sanction from the Church of England. Bishop Abbot had wholly sympathized with the king’s haste to see the Scottish Church established, which he understood as clearly as he had understood the royal desire for a speedy end to Bartholomew Legate. In Legate’s burning Andrewes had concurred, but now he balked somewhat at the royal will. The difficulty was that the new Scottish prelates were men of low degree in the Church, as none were eligible for such advancement. Abbot, a practical man, saw no harm in their rapid elevation. But Lancelot Andrewes, though he participated in the ceremony, let it be known that he felt it to be unseemly.

            Now there were months of suspense about Andrewes’ own advancement, during which he must have composed some of his most fervent daily prayers. Translated from the Latin he used, these private devotions exist today in his published works. 

            At length on March 18, just before the burning of Bartholomew Legate, the king made his choice. To succeed Richard Bancroft he picked a man whom none had backed in the open—not the learned Bishop of Ely, but the Bishop of London, prosy George Abbot. Abbot himself said that he was wonder-struck.

            George Abbot thus arrived at enough success for anyone. On his knees in sincere thankfulness—for he cannot have taken seriously the story about his mother and the pike—he must have been sure that God and the word of God, newly rendered, had impelled him on to the goal.

            Installed by proxy May 16, 1611, a month after he had begun to live at Lambeth, Archbishop Abbot threw himself with vigor into the varied doings of his office. While his preferment amazed and depressed the Anglicans, the Puritans, to whom he was friendly, tried to conceal their happy hopes. At the court the king was cordial, and even the queen, though in secret a papist with no use for him, deigned to speak to him with a polite show. Soon he took his seat on the privy council. James desired him to be lavish with social life at Lambeth Palace. His income from the Church made him one of the richest men in England, able to live in grandeur amid the music, the colors, the forms which the best English talent contrived. Within his realm he could command service proper for his high estate, could exert power and enjoy feeling power, in designs that he had long craved as the most noble on earth. In his day this sullen translator with a Puritan bent, now the highest prelate in Great Britain, had become the most famous of all the learned men.

            The new archbishop was honest and a hard worker. He tended to be a low churchman where Lancelot Andrewes, that more gracious translator, would have been high, and where James himself might have preferred stricter forms. An odd man to follow Richard Bancroft, Abbot felt bound to lead, and he did have some measure of leadership in his narrow, crabbed make-up. Yet one of his lacks was that he had never held a post in which he had to concern himself with the care of souls. Out of touch with the common people, he was often tactless and stupid. With little zeal for or skill in preaching, he was born just to have views, to manage, and to command. He was a great one to reprove, and though tender to the scruples of the Puritans, he maintained that all should comply with the forms of worship enjoined by the law of the land. With all his scowls he was deeply pious and never flinched in his duty, which he knew to be a light to guide and a rod to check the erring.

            Abbot’s gain of the highest church post and Legate’s loss of his life marked the year of publication of the King James Bible, and characterized the England that received it. Abbot’s elevation probably helped the new version along, as Andrewes’ would have done. Legate’s fate suggests that it was needed. And Miles Smith’s preface, though he began like an Elizabethan playwright with an apology to the reader, really meant not to apologize but to reprove the world he addressed.

            “Zeal to promote the common good,” Smith began, “whether it be by devising anything ourselves, or revising that which hath been labored by others, deserveth certainly much respect and esteem, but yet findeth but cold entertainment in the world.” (Note the use of “devising” and “revising” in the manner of Lyly.) “It is welcomed with suspicion instead of with love. . . . For was there ever any thing projected, that savored any way of newness or renewing, but the same endured many a storm of gainsaying, or opposition? A man would think that civility, wholesome laws, learning and eloquence, synods and church maintenance (that we speak of no more things of this kind) should be as safe as a sanctuary, and out of shot, as they say, that no man would lift up the heel, no, nor dog move his tongue against the motioners of them.” Yet, rather. Smith went on, “He that meddleth with men’s religion in any part meddleth with their custom, nay, with their freehold: and though they can find no content in that which they have, yet they cannot abide to hear of any altering. . .”

            And so, at the end of the great Bible task. Smith sadly but bravely anticipated opposition. “If we will be sons of the truth, we must consider that it speaketh, and trample upon our own credit, yea, and upon other men’s too, if either be in any way a hindrance.”

            Happily, the royal command at Hampton Court could give the new version enough prestige to insure its adoption, in time, by all the churchmen loyal to the Crown. Other authorization there was none, although like the Bishops’ Bible of 1585 the new Bible called itself “Authorized” and “Appointed to be read in churches.” How that came about is uncertain; perhaps the phrase was merely picked up from the old title page. And so, although there is no record that Abbot, Bancroft before him, or any with power to do so ever “authorized” the King James Bible, people speak of it as the Authorized Version.

            Although the new Bible could supplant the Bishops’ Bible in the churches (the latter was not reprinted after 1611), it was at first too big a volume for daily household use. It could spread widely among the people only when, in the octavo edition of 1612, it became small enough to be read by the fireside, held in the hand instead of resting on a table. For fires were still used for lights in English cottages, as well as for burning dissenters in the market place.

            More, people – such people as thronged Smithfield to watch Bartholomew Legate burned – had to learn to read. Presumably the first common people to read the new Bible were the nameless workers in Robert Barker’s print shop who put it through the press. There, at the sign of the Tiger’s Head, they ably abetted the men who were learned in tongues. All wrought with their minds and their hands to perfect for us the work, approved unto God, rightly setting forth the word of truth.

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