[King James Bible, English]. The Holy Bible conteyning the Old Testament and the New: newly translated out of the originall tongues: & with the former translations diligently compared and reuised by his Maiesties speciall comandement … London: Robert Barker, 1611.
On display is the first edition of the King James Bible, also known as the Authorized Version. This first printing is also known as the ‘Great He Bible’ for the printing error in Ruth 3:15 which reads ‘he went’ rather than ‘she went.’
The genesis of the KJB took place at Hampton Court Conference, convened by James I in January 1604, where the new Bible was commissioned in response to the perceived problems with earlier English translations, particularly the anti-authoritarian annotations found in the Geneva Bible. The King desired not a new translation but ‘to make out of many good ones, one principal good one.’
The approximately 54 translators thus thought of themselves as revisers rather than creators of a new translation. Using the 1602 Bishops’ Bible as their guide, they consulted several important English and non-English editions. Especially influential was the prose of William Tyndale, whose text constitutes long stretches of the KJB, especially in the New Testament.
By the mid-eighteenth century, the KJB was effectively unchallenged as the Bible of the Anglican and other Protestant churches. Its prose has massively influenced English language, literature and culture.