THE 400th anniversary of the first publication of the King James Version of the Bible – mentioned last month – has not gone unnoticed by a number of publishers, most notably the Oxford University Press which has published a facsimile edition of the first edition in Roman type. This wonderful edition comes with gold tooling on the spine, two silken bookmarks, a fine heavy duty slipcase to keep it in shape and a useful afterword by the author of the definitive history of this important part of our national heritage, Gordon Campbell.
This edition preserves all the original spellings and even the occasional typographical errors of the 1611 edition. Most notable are some of the usages of the time that now seem peculiar to modern readers; ‘v’ for ‘u’; ‘j’ for ‘i’ and vice-versa for example. It’s quite surprising the number of differences from the regular copies of the King James Bible we read today, since the spelling was standardised in 1769 and some other changes were made to the text and its punctuation.
Many initial chapter letters are ornamented. For example, the initial ‘I’ at the beginning of John’s Gospel shows the evangelist with an eagle; his traditional symbol looking up towards the sun above him displaying the Word; the Name of God. There are other surprises too; a dedication to King James, an almanack for 39 years ahead from 1611 to 1640, a table for finding the date of Easter Day, orders for psalms and lessons to be read in church services and on Holy Days and some illustrated genealogies of biblical characters. The quality of these engravings is superb.
Some folk may also be surprised to see that the books of the Apocrypha formed part of the original King James Bible and appear between the Old and New Testaments. This is a large, heavy book well worth reading. Copies can be had on-line post-free from Amazon.co.uk.
The Holy Bible Quatercentenary Edition. An exact reprint in Roman type page for page, line for line, and letter for letter of the King James Version otherwise known as the Authorized Version published in the year 1611 with an anniversary essay by Gordon Campbell. ISBN 978-019-955760-8. Prices range from £28 to £60 depending where you shop.