Vivat Rex! God Save the King!

After refusing publication of the Scripture in English during the first part of his reign Henry VIII allowed it in 1535, when Coverdale’s Bible, printed in Cologne, was left to circulate unhindered in England, followed by new editions that marked the advance of reform policies in the 1530’s, then stopped abruptly after the execution of Thomas Cromwell in 1541. The “Great Bible” corresponded to royal injunctions of 1538 demanding that an English Bible “of the largest volume” be set up “in summe convenient place” in every church in the realm. Printing of the first edition started during the summer of 1538 in the shop of the Parisian bookseller François Regnault but was interrupted after an intervention of the French Inquisition. The printing material had to be transferred to London where Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch completed 7 editions between 1539 and 1541. On its title-page Henry VIII was represented as the head of the Church  receiving God’s Word from the translators and passing it down to Thomas Cromwell on the right and to Archbishop Thomas Cranmer on the left, then through the hierarchy of church and state to a numerous populace that repeats “Vivat Rex”- Long Live the King.

At the beginning of the reign of Edward VI, often compared to king Josiah, the publication of an English translation of Erasmus’s paraphrases on the Gospel was also a royal enterprise. Prepared under the aegis of Catherine Parr, the last queen of Henry VIII, it involved numerous translators – among whom the future Mary I – and numerous printers as Edward VI ordered that a copy of the paraphrases should be placed in every church of the kingdom within a year of its completion in 1548, making it the authorized commentary of the Scripture by the Church of England.