Some would say I've committed sacrilege, encouraging dealers to destroy old books. Others, more sympathetically, might say I'm celebrating the treasures of our faith. I've just framed, and will soon hang, pages from a 1598 Geneva Bible, a 1614 Authorised Bible and a 1662 Book of Common Prayer.
Why were these publications, or at least their first editions, so significant?
The Geneva Bible was translated in that city by English refugees fleeing Bloody Mary. English bibles were either illegal or clumsy and expensive. The Geneva Bible came with little notes in the margins, interpreting the text through a Calvinist lens. It was the Bible of choice for many puritans, free as it was from Royal bias.
The Authorised or King James Bible was first published in 1612 to provide English speakers with a definitive translation. Although its preface is a rather sycophantic dedication to the King, the text is beautiful and accurate. It was also the government's instrument whereby English readers would be weaned off the more Presbyterian Genevan text. When James ascended the throne in 1603, the puritans had asked to meet him so they might present their grievances. This translation of the Bible is one of the few concessions he gave them from that Hampton Court Conference.
The Book of Common Prayer was anathema to many Puritan clergy. Although archbishop Cranmer was a sound fellow, his text wasn't sufficiently reformed for many. For example, marriage partners were invited to 'worship' each other with their bodies and it sometimes sought to accommodate the previous Church's ways. The Roundhead Parliament banned its use. When the monarchy and Anglican Church were restored in 1660, a revision of the Prayer Book was planned. Clergyman had until St Bartholomew's Day, 1662, to read from it in church. Those who failed to do so were ejected from their parishes and branded nonconformists for their refusal to conform to this new book. 2000 good men were rendered unemployed. Truly, this little manuscript is the saddest of the three.