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Early Printed Bibles - in English - 1535-1610

Brief description of the most significant editions of the English Bible during this period, whether from the Anglican, Protestant or Catholic traditions.

Title-page of the Coverdale Bible

Title-page of the Coverdale Bible (London, 1535). BL shelfmark: C.132.h.46. Copyright © The British Library Board

William Tyndale's translations were subsequently incorporated into complete editions of the English Bible. The earliest of these were printed on the Continent, but during the 1530s Henry VIII altered his religious views and some later versions were produced in London under the auspices of the Church of England.

The following are perhaps the most significant editions of the English Bible during this period, whether from the Anglican, Protestant or Catholic traditions:

Coverdale Bible (1535): The first complete English printed Bible.

  • Biblia. The Bible, that is, the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament, faithfully and truly translated out of Douche and Latyn in to Englishe (Cologne?: E. Cervicornus and J. Soter?, 1535). [C.18.b.8; etc.].

Matthew's Bible (1537): Text based on Tyndale and Coverdale. 'Thomas Matthew' is a pseudonym: it might stand for Tyndale, but is now generally thought to be John Rogers.

  • The Byble, which is all the holy Scripture: in whych are contayned the Olde and Newe Testament truly and purely translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew (Antwerp: Matthew Crom for Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, 1537). [C.18.c.5; etc.].

Great Bible (1539): Sometimes known as 'Cromwell's Bible', after Thomas Cromwell, Henry VIII's Chief Minister. Essentially a revision of Matthew's Bible. A copy of this large folio edition of the Bible was to be placed in every church in England and Wales.

  • The Byble in Englyshe, that is to saye the content of all the holy scrypture, both of ye olde and newe testament, truly translated after the veryte of the Hebrue and Greke textes (Paris, Francis Regnault; London: Rychard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, 1539). [C.18.d.1; etc.].

Cranmer's Bible (1540): A new printing of the Great Bible, with a preface by Thomas Cranmer, Archbishop of Canterbury.

  • The Byble in Englyshe, that is to saye the conte[n]t of al the holy scrypture, both of ye olde, and newe testame[n]t, with a prologe therinto, made by the reuerende father in God, Thomas archbysshop of Cantorbury (London: Edward Whytchurche, 1540). [C.18.d.2; etc.].

Geneva Bible (1560): English protestants in exile in Calvinist Geneva, Switzerland, produced a translation of the New Testament in 1557 [C.17.a.15], followed by a translation of the complete Bible in 1560. Editions were printed in England from 1576 onwards. The Geneva Bible is often known as the 'Breeches' Bible, owing to its use of this term in Genesis Chapter 3. It remained an exceedingly popular translation, and was reprinted around 150 times before the mid-17th century: the British Library holds 80 editions in 106 copies. The 'Soldier's Bible' used by Parliamentary troops during the English Civil Wars comprised sections from the Geneva Bible.

  • The Bible and Holy Scriptures conteyned in the Olde and Newe Testament. Translated according to the Ebrue and Greke, and conferred with the best translations in diuers languges (Geneva: Rouland Hall, 1560). [C.17.b.8].

Bishop's Bible (1568): A revision of the Great Bible produced by the English bishops under the supervision of Matthew Parker, Archbishop of Canterbury. During the reign of Elizabeth I, this was the Bible officially authorized for reading aloud in churches.

  • The holie Bible (London: Richarde Iugge, 1568). [C.35.l.14; etc.].

Douai-Rheims Bible (1582-1610): Also known simply as the Douai Bible. A translation of the Clementine Vulgate produced in the Catholic tradition, predominantly by Gregory Martin of the English Roman Catholic College at Rheims, France (part of the University of Douai). It was issued in two parts, the New Testament at Rheims in 1582, and the Old Testament at Douai in 1609/10.

  • The Nevv Testament of Iesus Christ, translated faithfully into English, out of the authentical Latin, according to the best corrected copies of the same, diligently conferred vvith the Greeke and other editions in diuers languages ... in the English College of Rhemes (Rheims: Iohn Fogny, 1582). [C.110.d.2; etc.];
  • The holie Bible faithfully translated into English, out of the authentical Latin. Diligently conferred with the Hebrew, Greeke, and other editions in diuers languages (Douai: Laurence Kellam, 1609[-10]). [C.110.d.3; etc.].

More complete bibliographical descriptions of the works listed above can be found in the English Short Title Catalogue.