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A Description of the Great Bible, 1539, by Francis Fry

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  • Description
    [BIBLES]. FRY, Francis.

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    A Description of the Great Bible, 1539,
    and the six editions of Cranmer's Bible, 1540 and 1541, printed by Grafton and Whitchurch: also of the editions, in large folio, of the Authorized Version... printed in the Years 1611, 1613, 1617, 1634, 1640... Together with an original leaf of each of the editions described.

    Stock Code 109156
    London, Willis and Sotheran, 1865

    Current price£12,500.00
    The first edition of Francis Fry's (1803-1886) A Description of the Great Bible, an important bibliographical account of the development of the bible in English with extensive charts showing points of issue and collation details. One the earliest 'leaf books', Fry incorporated extracts from fourteen foundational editions of the English bible, illustrating the evolution of this key text over the course of the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries to become the standard King James Version still in use today. The leaves in our copy are all extracted from the Old Testament and deal for the most part with the book of David.

    The earliest leaf is taken from the first edition of the Great Bible, the first authorised translation of the bible into English. It is sometimes referred to as 'Cranmer's Version', although the Archbishop had little to no role in the preparation of the text apart from the addition of a Prologue from the second edition onwards. Printed in London in 1539 by the evangelical reformists Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, a law of the previous year had made it compulsory for every church in England to own a copy of the bible in the native tongue. The text is substantially the same as the earlier Coverdale bible, which in turn was influenced by Tyndale's translation of the New Testament; both of which were banned at the time of printing in 1539.

    Six further leaves from the Great Bible trace the revised issues of this text as they appeared in April, July and November 1540, and May, November and December 1541. However on 28 June 1539 the Act of Six Articles became law, ending the brief spell of official tolerance of religious reform which had characterised the latter half of the 1530s, and Miles Coverdale, who had served as editor of the project, was forced into exile.

    The remaining seven leaves are taken from seven early issues of the Kings James Bible, comprising (as recognised by Fry) both variant first editions issued in 1611, the second issue of 1611, the reprint of the second issue, and the editions of 1613, 1617, 1634 and 1640. As with the Great Bible before it, the Kings James Version adopted a large folio format because the text was designed to be used for public worship rather than private devotion. The idea of this new translation was first mooted by John Rainolds (1549-1607), President of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and the Puritan leader at the Hampton Court Conference which took place in January 1604. 'The King took up the proposal warmly, and its achievement was due to his royal interest and influence', but it has also long been 'recognised that this Bible, like all the great English versions from 1537 down to 1885, was built on the sure foundations laid for all time by Tyndale and Coverdale' (Herbert).

    First edition; folio (44 x 29 cm); viii, 41, [1]pp., 14 original leaves from 7 editions of the Great Bible and 7 editions of the King James version with tipped-in identification aides; 51 facsimile plates, partly printed in red; 2 tables (1 folding); contemporary blue morocco-backed marbled boards gilt, spine and edges lightly rubbed, a very good copy.
  • More Information
    Documentation: Documented elsewhere (similar item)
    Period: 19th Century
    Condition: Good.
    Styles / Movements: Traditional
    Dealer Reference #: 109156
    Incollect Reference #: 669545
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