The Bible. Translated according to the Ebrew and Greeke, and conferred with the best translations in diuers languages

Chrzanowski 1583bWhen Mary became queen in 1553, William Whittingham and a number of other Protestant scholars fled to Geneva, Switzerland. Geneva was home to John Calvin, who was the leading theologian of the Reformation at that time, and Theodore Beza, the greatest Biblical scholar of the day. In 1557 Whittingham published a revision of the New Testament in English largely based on the Matthew Bible (in turn, based on Tyndale), but including some changes introduced with the Great Bible and revisions drawing on a Latin New Testament produced by Beza. It was the first step of a more ambitious project, a new English Bible to become known as the Geneva Bible.

Production of the Geneva Bible was a collaborative effort, spearheaded by Whittingham and including Anthony Gilby, who led the work on the Old Testament, Thomas Sampson, and others. It was a scholarly corrected revision of Whittingham’s New Testament and the Great Bible’s Old Testament and Apocrypha. The first edition was published in 1560 and paid for by the English-speaking community in Geneva. In a break from tradition, the Bible was printed in Roman type (rather than black-letter “Gothic”) and in an affordable, conveniently small format (a quarto, about 8 1/2” by 5 1/2”). The Bible also included a number of study aids: illustrations, maps, indexes, verse divisions, and marginal notes. Clearly, copies were meant for personal use.

In 1561 John Bodley (father of Sir Thomas Bodley, founder of the Bodleian at Oxford) obtained the exclusive right from Queen Elizabeth to print the Geneva Bible for a period of seven years. It was never appointed to be used in the churches of England because of its (too radical) Calvinistic marginal notes; the Geneva Bible, however, was very widely popular, especially among the Puritans. It was first printed in England in 1570s and altogether some seventy editions of the Geneva Bible, and thirty more editions of its New Testament, were published during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. It was the Bible that Shakespeare read.

The present copy is an example of the noblest printing of the Geneva Bible, the royal folio edition of 1583.

Chrzanowski 1583b *

STC 2136

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675