Rare 1611 edition of King James Bible on display at Central Library
In 1603, in an attempt to resolve conflicts between religious denominations, King James I of England and Ireland (James VI of Scotland) convened a group of 54 scholars to undertake an official translation of the Bible. The final product was published in 1611. In 2011, organizations around the world are observing the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible.
The San Antonio Public Library has joined the celebration with a special exhibit of a rare 1611 first issue of the first edition of the King James Bible, on display through August 26 in the Texana/Genealogy Department on the sixth floor of the Central Library at 600 Soledad. Accompanying the Bible are other antique publications, including John White’s The Way to the True Church: wherein the principal Motives perswading to Romanisme are familiarly disputed and driven to their Issues, published in London in 1616; Vincenzo Cartari’s Imagini colla sposizione degli dei degli antichi (Images of the Gods of the Ancients), Venice, 1674; and Thomas Heywood’s The Hierarchy of the Blessed Angels, London 1635. The Texana/Genealogy Department is open 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, and 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. It is closed Sunday and Monday.
About the Bible on display at the Library
During the blitz of London in World War II, German pilots regularly bombed the city from September 1940 to May 1941. In 1942, fearing more attacks, a rare book dealer in London sold several items to San Antonio bookstore owner Frank Rosengren, who dealt in rare books as well as current titles. In 1945 the San Antonio Public Library purchased the King James Bible with funds from a bequest from Library benefactor Harry Hertzberg. This copy is defective in lacking a title page and a final page, but is otherwise complete.
This copy comes from the first edition run that produced the “Great He Bible.” As the result of a typesetter’s error, Chapter 3, Verse 15, of the Book of Ruth reads, “He went into the citie,” referring to Ruth. As corrected in later editions, the verse should have read, “She went into the citie.”
As far as San Antonio Public Library staff are aware, this copy of the King James Bible has not been on display since 1945.
About the King James Authorized Version of the Bible
At his wits’ end. By the skin of your teeth. Can a leopard change its spots? Forbidden fruit. Living off the fat of the land. Pearls before swine.
What do all those phrases (and many more) have in common? They all originated in the King James Version of the Bible.
Shortly after his accession to the English throne in 1603, James I called a conference at Hampton Court (1604) to deal with religious differences between Anglicans and Puritans. In reality the conference settled only one thing, the English version of the Bible. Hitherto there had been several translations in circulation, some Puritan and some Anglican.
A commission of 54 scholars (only 47 completed the task) was approved to undertake a new translation, two companies from each of three institutions: Cambridge, Oxford, and Westminster. The companies translated the following chapters:
- The First Westminster Company - Genesis – II Kings]
- The First Cambridge Company - [I Chronicles – Ecclesiastes]
- The First Oxford Company - [Isaiah – Malachi]
- The Second Cambridge Company - [The Apocrypha]
- The Second Oxford Company - [Gospels, Acts, Revelation]
- The Second Westminster Company - [New Testament Epistles]
The text of the Bishops’ Bible would serve as the primary guide for the translators, and the familiar proper names of the biblical characters would all be retained. If the Bishops’ Bible was deemed problematic in any situation, the translators were permitted to consult other translations from a pre-approved list: the Tyndale Bible, the Coverdale Bible, the Matthew Bible, the Great Bible, and the Geneva Bible. Original Greek and Hebrew manuscripts, in medieval manuscript form, were continually consulted.
The new Bible, known as the King James Bible or the Authorized Version, was published in 1611 and was soon adopted by all branches of English Protestants.
The King James Bible is thought by many to be the greatest creation of seventeenth-century England. It has had a permanent influence on English thought and language down to the present day – 400 years later.