Peter Gurry gave a brief history of
printed English Bibles up to the King James, focusing on their text-critical
marginal notes. The first of these editions was Tyndale’s of 1525, printed in
Tyndale’s second edition, the first
complete NT, was printed in
This 1534 edition, Tyndale’s third, contained substantial marginal notes (but none of a textual nature), very interpretative and marked with stars. For example, the word “sandals” which had been introduced to the English Bible by Wycliffe, was retained, but with a note at Mark 6:9 explaining what they were. Like the second edition, this 1534 NT has chapters subdivided into paragraphs, and lacks the line in John 8 about the adulterous woman’s detractors being accused of their own conscience.
We now move on to the Whittingham NT
of 1557, printed in
|A conjectural emendation offered in the |
margin of the 1611 KJV.
Finally: the KJV. Up until now, title pages of English Bibles have been keen to point out the inclusion of notes to help the reader, but not so the King James, even though it contained 6000 marginal notes in the OT and 300 in the NT. Instead, the editors actually felt a need to apologize in the preface for providing the notes. In doing so, they took a slight swipe at Sixtus VI, who disallowed any variety of readings in the margin of his Vulgate.
The variant notes read much as do those in modern editions: “As some read” or “many copies wanting.” Most variant notes are indistinguishable from translation notes, usually starting with “Or.” About three-fourths of the NT notes are just alternate renderings. Acts 13:18 has a conjecture, proposing ἐτροφοφόρησεν for ἐτροποφόρησεν. [This is, as far as Peter could see in a quick run through the margins, the only note in the entire KJV with Greek in it – but Daniel Buck has observed that there’s another one on the same page: τα οσια at verse 34].
I John 2:23 is the only place the KJV
uses typefont to indicate a textual variant, instead of a marginal note. That
variant was found either in the text or margin in their Greek sources. The KJV
editors included many more variants than the
And now some conclusions.
● It is striking how many editions
made their notes a selling point, for which
● Those who produced these English Bibles knew that many of their readers would be reading the Word of God in their own language for the first time. So they also included extensive book prefaces. Tyndale’s preface to Romans is the longest in the whole NT, longer than Romans itself – and almost entirely directly translated from Luther.
● Early English Bible translators made only a vague distinction between translation differences and textual differences. They didn’t see them as distinctly as we do.
● Finally, I’m not sure we’ve improved much on the KJV notes.
It is cj11639 in the Amsterdam database.
Thanks, Daniel. FYI, it’s Whittingham.
On the KJV:
The 1769 revision and later editions of the KJV also included italic typefont in John 8:6b (as though he heard them not) and in 1 John 3:16 (of God) apparently to indicate variant readings, in addition to the original usage of typefont in 1 John 2:23b as can seen in the 1611. There is also a marginal note at Luke 17:36 indicating that they found this verse "wanting" in most Greek copies, which is the only one of its kind, but seems to play a similar purpose to the italics in 1 John 2:23b.
Some editions follow the 1769 revision of the KJV, in placing the word [but] in square brackets in 1 John 2:23b, seemingly to indicate that this word would be italicized as a "supplied word" even if the typeface of that portion of the verse was not already italicized. Other editions after the 1769 revision use parentheses instead or eschew the brackets that were placed around this word.
PS: The Cambridge Paragraph Bible of 1873, a divergent edition of the KJV made by Scrivener, also italicized the variant in 1 John 5:7-8. While Scrivener's 1873 edition of the KJV does seem to introduce a few name spellings* that made their way into the 1900 format of the KJV (the currently used form), it was also widely divergent from the other anticipatory editions of the modern "KJV 1900" format; for example, by combining the 9th and 10th Psalm into a single chapter called "Psalm IX & X," but declining to do the same for Psalm 114 and 115, nor to split Psalm 116 or Psalm 147 into two parts (as the LXX additionally does) resulting in Scrivener's CPB uniquely having only 149 Psalms. This is among numerous other irregularities such as "strain out a gnat" (instead of "strain at a gnat") in Matthew 23:24, and questionable word choices such as "stale" (instead of "stole") in Genesis 31:20 + 2 Kings 11:2, "oweth" (instead of "owneth") in Leviticus 14:35 + Acts 11:21, and "begun" (instead of "began") in Numbers 25:1; also "ought" (instead of "owed") in Matthew 18:24,28 + Luke 7:41, and "lien" (instead of "lain") in John 11:17.
* - for instance "Malchishua" in 1 Samuel 31:2 (instead of "Melchishua"), and "Sara's" in Romans 4:19 (instead of "Sarah's" with the "h") and more. Compare Scrivener's CPB in these places with the ABS 1871 KJV edition (ABS KJV editions, since 1818, are known for correctly adding the question mark at the end of Jeremiah 32:5), and [the AV text of] the Cambridge AV-RV Parallel Bible of 1885, both of which still have the old spellings as compared to the main text of the Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges and 20th/21st century editions of the KJV.
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