Bible in English, 1573

London: Richard Jugge, 1573

In 1571 St. John’s College, Cambridge purchased the first edition of the Bishops’ Bible issued three years earlier and paid for it 27 shillings and 8 pence. At the time, this sum represented, according to one source, the price of a cow or the wages earned by a skilled laborer in 46 days. Not every parish in England could afford to buy a copy of this folio edition. Richard Jugge, its printer and publisher, released a more affordable quarto edition in 1569 and reprinted it in or about 1573. He economized on the cost of illustrations by reducing them to a minimum and saved about 50 per cent of the cost of paper.

The new quarto needed a new title page. Its design is almost identical in the first two quarto editions. In the 1569 edition the title, spelled The holi bible, is placed inside the tablet in the lower register of the page, while in the 1573 quarto it is spelled The holie Byble and is located at the top of the page. The tablet of the second quarto has a quote from John 5:39 “Search the Scriptures …” The engraved image is identical in the two quarto editions. As in the folio edition, Elizabeth’s portrait has pride of place, but while in the folio the artist emphasized her royal power, in the quarto he chose to present her as an embodiment of all virtues. The queen is enthroned, robed in ermine and holding the scepter and the orb, as two figures identified as Justice and Mercy are crowning her. A second pair of figures, labeled Fortitude and Prudence, flank the tablet that supports her throne. Together they represent the Four Cardinal Virtues that Christian tradition has borrowed from Classical Antiquity. Their names and even their number vary slightly from one source to another. The most common list, the one quoted in the Book of Wisdom 8:7, includes Temperance, Prudence, Justice, and Fortitude. The title page of the quarto edition substitutes Mercy for Temperance.

At the bottom of the title page, above the phrase “God Save the Queen,” the artist depicted a scene meant to evoke the Queen’s faith and her role as Head of the Anglican Church: a preacher is delivering a sermon in front of a packed congregation. An hourglass is placed near his right hand to remind him that he should not exceed certain limits. In post-Reformation England, as sermons became increasingly longer, such a reminder was routinely displayed on the pulpit.

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