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that language; if they were, it is probable, they were all destroyed, in that general devastation, which was made under Dioclesian about the year 301, when, as Fox in his Acts and Monuments, page 89, relates, on the credit of ancient authors, “almost all christianity was destroyed in the whole island; the churches subverted; all the books of the scripture burned; and many of the faithful both men and women were slain.” Yet I may observe, that in Chaucer's time, there was a tradition that the Gospels were extant in the British tongue, when Alla was king of Northumberland, in the sixth century. Chaucer's words, in the Man of Lawe's Tale, are these
A Breton boke written with Evangeles
But as this might be only a poetical fancy, I shall lay no great stress
it. The Saxons made themselves masters of this island somewhat before the year 500, and after the Saxon inbabitants of this country (says Mr. Lewis in his history of the Translations of the Bible into English) were converted to Christianity, we are sure they had the whole Bible in their own country character and language. The most ancient version of the gospels, in that language, that I have found mentioned is that of one Aldred a priest, inserted in the code of Eadride, Bishop of Lindisfarne, about the year 680, (or as others say 730,) which was near a hundred years after the Abbot Augustine, with forty Benedictine monks, were sent from Rome by Pope Gregory the first, to instruct the Saxons in the Christian religion.
Venerable Bede, who was a Saxon, we are told (See Lewis's Hist. page 6.) translated the whole Bible into the Saxon tongue, and that king Alfred did the same, Yet Bayle tells us, that Alfred translated only part of the Psalms; - Psalterium Davidicum, quod morte preventus non perfecit." and Aug. Calmet says, that Cuthbert, Bede's scholar, in the catalogue of his master's works, speaks only of his translation of the Gospels into that language, and says nothing of the rest of the Bible. Bede died in 735, and Alfred in 901.
It is generally held, that the first translation of the Bible into English was made by John Wicliff, who was born at, Wicliff in Yorkshire, and educated at Merton college in Osford; he translated it from the Latin Bibles then in use, as the Saxon versions had been done before. This translation
must have been made some time before the year 1384, when Wicliff died. Aug. Calmet says, it is not known that this translation was erer printed, but that there are several MSS. of it in England. The same learned Benedictine also informs us, that John Trevisa is supposed to be the first, who translated the Bible into English, and that his translation was finished in the year 1357. This John Trevisa was vicar of Berkley in Gloucestershire; afterwards there was a revisal made of Wicliff's translation by some of his followers; or, as some think, a new version, with several corrections. And these are all the English translations of the whole Bible, (as far as I can find) that were made before the art of printing was invented, which art was first brought into England by William Caxton, about the year 1470, or very soon after.
In the year 1526, William Tindal, a Welchman, but educated at Oxford, first printed his New Testament in English in octavo, at Antwerp, where he then resided. This translat tion was not made as the former ones had been from the Vulgate Latin, but from the original Greek. About four years after this he published the Pentateuch in English, from the original Hebrew; and continued to translate several other books of the Old Testament, till the time of his death, which was at Tilford, or Wilford, near Bruxells in the year 1536, where he was first strangled, and then pub. licly burnt. But the year before this, the whole Bible was translated into English by Myles Coverdale, a native of Yorkshịre, but residing somewhere beyond sea, was published in folio, and dedicated to King Henry VIII. Of this Bible, it is said, there were only two more editions, one in a large quarto, in 1550, and another in 1553. Some suppose this version was made part by Tindal, and part by Cover dale.
In 1537, Matthew's Bible, as it was called, was printed with the king's license; of which there was another edition in 1551. Mr. Lewis, (Hist. of Transl. of Bib. p. 111.) is of opinion, that this Thomas Matthews is a fictitious name, and that one John Rogers was the translator, or at least the publisher of that edition. This John Rogers was educated at Cambridge, and became acquainted with Tindal at Antwerp; but in Queen Mary's reign, (being then in England,) he was burnt on account of his printing that Bible.
In the year 1539, Matthew's Bible was published with some alterations and corrections, in a large folio, printed by Grafton and Whitchurch, which was called Cranmer's or the Great Bible; and the same year also, one Taverner published another edition of this Bible; in this edition like
wise some other corrections were made. Taverner was born at Brisley, a village in Norfolk, Anno 1505. He was, as Bayle expresses it, "Tam Græce quam Latine expertus, in operibus componendis et transferendis singulare donum habens.”
The next revision and publication of the Bible was madle under the care and direction of Archbishop Parker, and as sereral bishops were employed in that revision, it is some. times called the Bishop's Bible. This was printed by Richard Jugge, Anno 1568, in folio, and had several impressions afterward.
The Roman Catholics (that were English) 1582, made ą. translation of the New Testament in English, from what they call the authentical Latin (meaning the Vulgate,) and because it was printed at Rheims, a city of Champagne in France (where they then chiefly resided) it is usually called the Rhemish Testament; and in 1609, they also printed the Old Testament at Doway.
In the reign of King James I. a new, complete, and more accurate translation of all the holy scriptures was made by fifty four learned men, appointed by royal anthority for that purpose, and it was printed in folio in 1011, they having spent about three years in completing it.
Some English refugees, that tied to Genera in Qucen Mary's time, on account of their religion, made a translation of the New Testament into their native language; and that was printed at Geneva by Conrad Badius, in 1557, and was the first New Testament in English, with the distinction of verses by numeral figures. The division of the sacred books into chapters is ascribed to Hugo de Sancto Claro, a Dominican monk, who died in 1262. But this divia sion into verses, marked by numeral figures was first made by Robert Stephens, the learned and celebrated French printer, in a Greek Testament, which he printed in 1551; and four years after that the vulgar Latin Bible was divided in the same manner. But it was not till the year 1560, that the whole Bible was printed at Geneva, which edition is in quarto.
I have hy me an edition of the Bible in English, contain: ing the Old and New Testament and Apocrypha, which escaped the search of the diligent Mr. Lewis, it is a small 4to. divided into chapters, but not distinguished by verses, I know not were it was printed, it being defective at the beginning and end. But Mr. Ames, secretary to the society of Antiquaries, has one of the same edition, in his curious collection, that is complete. He informs me, his
was printed by R. Grafton, Anno 1553. Before this information was given me, I was of opinion, that mine had been printed somewhere abroad, because the paper is made yellow by some art; why it was so stained I can give no good reason, not having observed any books printed on paper of that colour that I remember in England.
All the critical essays, that I have seen upon our last translation of the Bible, appear to me upon the whole to be but trivial. Doubtless some passages might be better expressed; but I do not find, that it is charged with any essential, or even material fault; and therefore I look upon it as a true and good version, and that we shall not want another, till by length of time, the flux and change of language shall render it obscure or unintelligible. Wandsworth, Feb. 24, 1758,
XXXIII. Account of the Translators of the Bible,
IN your Supplement for 1764, a correspondent from Bath requests an account of the translators of the Bible now in use, who and what they were. As I have not yet seen an answer to this request, I take the liberty of sending you a copy of the order set down for the translating of the Bible by King James, from the collection of records in the 2d. Vol. of Burnet's Hist. of the Reformation, p. 366, folio; and have added a few notes relating to some of the translators.
The places and persons agreed upon for the Hebrew, with the particular books by them undertaken were as follow,
the story from Joshua
to the first book of
nicles, with the rest
Psalms, Proverbs, Can-
The four or greater
Prophets, with the La-
mentations, and the
twelve lesser ProMr. Brett
phets. Mr. Fairclough
* (Dean of Westminster) Launcelot Andrews. He was born in London in 1565, was made Dean of Westminster in 1601, Bishop of Chichester in 1605, Bishop of Ely, in 1609, Bishop of Winchester in 1618, and died in 1626. See Biogr. Dictionary.
+ (Dean of St. Pauls) John Overall. He was made Dean of St. Pauls in, 1601, and Bishop of Norwich in 1618.
(Mr. King) was probably the same with John King, who was consecrated Bishop of London in 1611, and died in 1618. See Heylin's Help to English History.
|| (Mr. Tompson) Might not this be the same with Robert Tompson who was Dean of Westminster in 1617, and Bishop of Salisbury in 1620.
(Mr. Richardson) Dr. John Richardson was of Cambridgeshire. Magn. Brit. Vol. I. p. 263.
(Mr. Brett) Dr. Richard Brett, the greatest linguist of his time, was rector of Quarendon in Buckinghamshire, and lies buried in the chancel there. Dlag. Brit. Vol. I. p. 217.