New Testament in English, 1552?

London: Richard Jugge, 1552?

The earliest English translations of the Bible ever printed were the work of William Tyndale, an Oxford scholar born in the early 1490s, who dedicated his entire life to translating the Bible and earned a martyr’s crown in the process. In 1535, when he was living as a refugee in the Low Countries, Tyndale was arrested on suspicion of heresy. One year later he was burned at the stake near Brussels. His translation, based on the original Hebrew and Greek texts, was published in installments: the New Testament in 1526, the Pentateuch in 1630, and the Book of Jonah in 1531. The manuscript of the historical books of the Old Testament escaped detection when his premises were searched and it was later incorporated into the so-called Matthew’s Bible of 1537 together with the already-published portions of the Bible. It had an extremely significant impact on all later Protestant English Bible,s including the 1611 King James or Authorized Version.

Henry VIII severed all ties with Rome after his first divorce, but the Church of England retained many Catholic practices during his reign. After the accession of his nine-year-old son, Edward VI, in January 1547, Protestantism was enforced in England with renewed vigor: the confiscation of Catholic property continued, the Acts of Uniformity were imposed upon the Church, the Book of Common Prayer was issued in 1548, and printers were kept busy producing Scriptures in English. No fewer than 10 editions of the entire Bible were published during the short reign of Edward VI (1547-1553), in addition to 20 editions of the New Testament, and five editions of portions of the Bible. Richard Jugge (d. 1577), who was to release the first edition of the Bishops’ Bible in 1568, reprinted four times Tyndale’s New Testament between 1548 and 1553. In his second edition, described here, Jugge printed a revision of Tyndale’s version done with “the advice and help of godly learned men.” The anonymous revisers brought the English text closer to the Greek original and inserted in the book their own footnotes.

Edward VI authorized Jugge’s second edition and fixed a price limit of 22 pence for unbound copies. Jugge advertized the royal approval by including an engraved portrait of the young king on the book’s title page. The image is based on an official portrait painted by William Scrots (active 1537-1553), an artist who had done some work for the Regent of the Netherlands in 1537 and became Court Painter of the Tudors in 1547. A Latin inscription lists the King’s titles and mentions his age (he had reached the fifteenth year of his life). The words Vivat Rex are printed to the left and right of the image. Below the King’s portrait is a Latin distich that alludes to Matthew 13.46:  “A merchant … when he had found one pearl of great price went and sold all that he had and bought it” (King James Version). The Latin verses and their English translation read as follows:

Vnio quem praecepit emi servator Iesus

            Hic situs est, debet non aliunde peti.

The pearl which Christ commanded to be bought

            Is here to be found, not else to be sought.

Jugge’s edition is profusely illustrated and apparently sold well for it was reprinted both one year later, in 1553, and after the accession of Queen Elizabeth, probably in 1566.

King Edward VI

King Edward VI