400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

...and thy word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of mine heart: for I am called by thy name, Jeremiah 15:16.

400th Anniversary of the King James Bible

Postby Paul » Sat Sep 24, 2011 12:19 am

The King James Bible is now over 400 years old. It was originally published on May 2, 1611. An anniversary edition as an exact replica is now published for the reduced price of $995, or as little as $395 with leatherette binding.

1611 King James Bible: First Edition

Note the video of the production about half way down the page.

This anniversary edition is full sized, retaining the exact measurements, 17 & 1/2 inches, by 12, by 5 & 1/4. Originally, the bible was chained to the pulpit at churches. A Gothic font was used, which can be very hard to read, but not so much on the large sized pages. At that time spelling was different, and a "v" or "f" could appear for "u" or "s."

However, for people on a budget, a reduced sized version is available for $179. Note individual full-sized pages suitable for framing are sold for $295.

However, for someone really on a budget, Zondervan also has put out an anniversary edition that is an accurate replica, but 8 & 1/4 inches, by 5 & 1/2, by 2 & 1/2, priced at $7.99. This very small size makes the bible difficult to read, but one does get a feel for how the original looked in page design. In 1990 Thomas Nelson published a 1611 replica, but with a Roman font for ease in reading, and with decorative initials and border designs from a 1911 edition, but these are very similar in appearance to the original. It is priced at $49.99. With practice, the different spellings become familiar.

Today, a complete, or nearly complete 1611 King James Bible sells at auction for $80,000 to $140,000. Note this link for a compilation of facts in general on the original edition.

The 1611 first edition King James Bible after 400 years

We can read a 1611 King James Bible on-line. Font size can be adjusted on this digital version, and reading these pages must be remarkably similar to experiencing the original.

1611 First Edition King James Bible

The text of the 1611 edition is also slightly different than the one used today. Perhaps, the best book setting out the history of the King James bible is The Literary Lineage of the King James Bible 1340-1611, by Charles Butterworth, and he explains the alterations as quoted below from page 10, Octagon Books, New York, 1941, reprinted 1971.

It is a surprise to many people to learn that in addition to changes in printing, spelling, and punctuation, a number of minor corrections and improvements have been made since 1611 in the wording of text itself. Obvious errors were soon corrected, and sometimes fresh mistakes were made, to be corrected in their turn. There were, in particular, four editions of the King James Bible which introduced most of the changes and improvements that have become established in our present text. Two of these were published at Cambridge University in 1629 and 1638, the third was edited by Dr. Thomas Paris, of Cambridge, and appeared in 1762, and the fourth by Dr. Benjamin Blayney, Oxford, in 1769.* Since that date, the text has been reprinted practically without change, aside from the omission of the Apocryphal Books, which were generally included between the Old and New testaments down to 1826.

*For the benefits of the curious, these specimens will show what kind of alterations were made in the text:
(1) In Romans (12:2) the edition of 1611 read: "what is that good, that acceptable and conflict will of God." "The edition of 1629 introduced the present reading, "what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.
(2) In I Corinthians (15:48) the original edition read: "As is the earthy, such are they that are earthy"; the edition of 1638 first gave the present reading, "As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy."
(3) In I Corinthians (13:2) the 1611 version read: "and though I haue all faith, . . . and haue no charitie, I am nothing." In the edition of 1762, this was changed to read, "have not charity," etc.

The King James Bible has a very special annointing, and I believe it is definitely the best translation in English and based on the best textual witness according to manuscript evidence. In the future, I will do a series of posts on the King James Bible, the translation theory, manuscripts, comparision to the modern versions, and other relevant factors in understanding the unique nature of this work.

M. Paul Webb
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