The Battle of the English Versions
Printing started in England in the 1470s but, because of the long-lasting hostility of Henry VIII to vernacular translations, no part of the English Bible was printed before 1526 – in Cologne -, no complete English Bible before 1535 – also in Cologne – and none in England before 1537. The first printed translations, from the Hebrew and Greek, were due to William Tyndale, who fled to the continent because there was “no place to do [the translation] in all of Englonde” and was burned at the stake as a heretic in Antwerp in 1536. Tyndale’s English text was used by Miles Coverdale in 1535 and mostly by “Thomas Matthew” (John Rogers) who edited Tyndale’s unpublished manuscripts, in 1537. Miles Coverdale again, in the “Great Bible” of 1539, and Richard Taverner, also in 1539, both revised the “Matthew” version. Although it was condemned by Parliament in 1543 as The Geneva translation, which became the household Bible of Elizabethan England, was translated and printed by Marian exiles in Geneva who followed the model of contemporary French Calvinist Bibles: in-quarto format, numbered verse divisions, historical tables, explanatory pictures, plans and maps. All these visual aids, as the numerous theological notes, were aimed at a better understanding of the “darke” places of the text.