Inside take on a Folger, Bodleian, and Ransom Center exhibition on the creation and afterlife of the King James Bible on the 400th anniversary of its publication.

Before the KJB: The Coverdale Bible

A passage from the book of Job in the Coverdale Bible, 1535. Image courtesy of the University of Dayton.

After opening our local Manifold Greatness exhibition on August 24, we were contacted by a local collector, Stuart Rose, who offered to lend to us his first edition Coverdale Bible.  The Coverdale Bible was printed in 1535 and is the first complete English Bible ever printed, as well as the first full Bible in modern English.

We removed the 1838 reprint edition that we had planned to show for the exhibition, featured in our case of early translations of the Bible, and replaced it with the real thing. The following information is from the Sotheby’s catalog listing for this particular book.

BIBLIA: The Bible, that is, the holy Scripture of the Olde and New Testament. 1535. First Edition in English of the Complete Bible, 307 x 197 mm. Handsome 19th century morroco gilt by Francis Bedford. The Earl of Crawford-John William Pease-Lord Wardington Copy.

Such copies of the Coverdale Bible have appeared for sale in the past 50 years are invariably incomplete. This copy is in fact one of the most complete copies offered during this time period — lacking only one leaf of text proper (the other lacking leaves being prelims).

The Coverdale Bible is much rarer than the first printing of the 1611 King James Bible and is known to be 3 or 4 times rarer than the First Folio of Shakespeare. University of Dayton Libraries is excited to present this rare and magnificent book. Special thanks to Mr. Stuart Rose for sharing this  early translation with Manifold Greatness visitors.

 Katy Kelly is communications and outreach librarian at University of Dayton Libraries and project director for the University of Dayton Manifold Greatness exhibit.

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