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Early Printed Bibles - in English - 1611 onwards

The British Library holds several hundred different editions of the English Bible from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

The King James Version of 1611, also known as the 'Authorized Version', was a new translation commissioned by King James I in 1604 for the Church of England. It is in essence a revision of the Bishop's Bible, and was undertaken by 47 scholars working in committees at Oxford, Cambridge and Westminster.

  • 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. Appointed to be read in Churches (London: Robert Barker, 1611). [C.35.l.13.(1.); etc.].
Title-page of the King James Version of the Bible

Title-page of the King James Version of the Bible (London, 1611). BL shelfmark: C.35.l.13.(1.). Copyright © The British Library Board

Despite the publication of several new translations, such as the Quaker Bible of 1764 [L.14.f.1; 2.e.3,4], the King James Version remained the principal version used in Britain until the late 19th century. From 1881, the text was updated and re-issued as the English Revised Version:

  • The New Testament (1881) [1606/1140];
  • The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments (1885) [3049.h.7];
  • The Apocrypha (1895) [3049.g.9].

Many important editions of the Bibles in popular use today, such as the 'New King James Version' (1979-1982) and the 'English Standard Version' (2001), continue to use the 1611 version as their source.

The British Library holds several hundred different editions of the English Bible from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. These include a substantial number produced by the British and Foreign Bible Society, whose work is described in the publication Cheap Bibles (see Selected Bibliography). A chronological listing of all English Bibles already in the Library by the early 1970s can be seen in a printed edition of BLC to 1975, under the heading 'Bible [English]'. Material acquired more recently can be found by searching Explore the British Library or, for the period to 1800, the English Short Title Catalogue.