The King James Bible: A Short History from Tyndale to Today

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The King James Bible was the result of an extraordinary effort over nearly a century to make many good English translations and turn them into what the translators called ‘one principal good one, not justly to be excepted against'. David Norton traces the work of Tyndale and his successors, analyzing the translation and revisions of two representative passages. His fascinating new account follows in detail the creation of the KJB, including attention to the translators' manuscript work. He also examines previously unknown evidence such as the diary of John Bois, the only man who made notes on the translation. At the centre of the book is a thorough discussion of the first edition. The latter part of the book traces the printing and textual history of the KJB and provides a concise account of its changing scholarly and literary reputations.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Bible. In recognition of this, Norton (English, Victoria Univ. of Wellington, New Zealand; A History of the Bible as Literature) gives us a new history of that translation, which was undertaken from 1604 to its publication in 1611. While several other books on this topic have been published in recent years, Norton's is distinctive in its scholarly emphasis on the history of the translation itself rather than primarily on the translators or other historical figures associated with its history. Norton spends the early part of the book addressing the long history of translation leading up to the King James Version (KJV). He then deals with this particular translation process and the history of the translation's reception over the subsequent centuries. Readers will be struck particularly by the long, painstaking effort involved in the creation of this translation. VERDICT Those with an interest in church history and in the King James Bible, as well as specialists in the subject of biblical translation generally, will find this book very informative and helpful.—John Jaeger, Dallas Baptist Univ. Lib., TX
From the Publisher
'By his work as editor of The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible and through his careful study of manuscripts left by King James's translators, David Norton has made himself master of his subject. This history of the King James Bible is detailed, clear, and complete.' Ward S. Allen, author of Translating the New Testament Epistles 1604–1611

'Professor David Norton has written a brilliant little book. It is a fine summary of Christian and literary heritage … Its usefulness will appeal primarily to the educated Pastor and the serious student. It is a beautifully-produced volume, divided into manageable sections for the busy reader, well-laced with biblical quotations and illustrations …' English Churchman

'Readable, surprising and informative.' Irish Examiner

'David Norton … produces a masterly account of the interstices of translation, enabling us to look over the shoulders of those remarkable KJB scholars [F. R. Leavis and F. W. Bateson].' Financial Times

'This is micro-history at its very best and it brings us closer to understanding the chaps behind 1611's most noteworthy book.' Catholic Herald

'A minutely documented, erudite and yet infinitely readable account of the making of the KJB.' The Typographic Hub (

'[Norton] gives a scholarly, yet vivid and wholly human account of the printing and design of the King James Bible.' The Typographic Hub (

'Norton's achievement is to demystify the KJB by reconstructing, in careful and precise detail, what is known of the process of translation … [He] does a masterly job of assembling the scattered evidence that remains …' The Times Literary Supplement

'[This] is perhaps the best current book for the reader who wants a sound, scholarly and sober account of the AV.' Faith and Worship

'Amongst the minor flood of books that have been published to mark the four hundredth anniversary of the King James Bible, few, as is the nature of things, will prove to be of lasting value. This is one that will last. This goes much further than some more general surveys that do give the historical context, but leave the reader deprived of the 'mechanics' of translation. Norton's book supplies the want.' Ian Gibbs,

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521616881
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 1/31/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 232
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

David Norton is Professor of English at the Victoria University of Wellington. His previous publications include A History of the Bible as Literature, 2 volumes (Cambridge University Press, 1993) and The New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (Cambridge University Press, 2005).
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Table of Contents

List of illustrations;
1. Predecessors;
2. Drafting the King James Bible;
3. 'I was a translator';
4. Working on the King James Bible;
5. 1611: the first edition;
6. Printing, editing and the development of a standard text;
7. Reputation and future.
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