THE 1611 "HE" KJV
FIRST Edition of the King James Version — First, "HE" Issue
Bible. English. 1611. Authorized (i.e., "King James Version"). The Holy Bible, containing the Old Testament, and the New: Newly translated out of the original tongues.... London: Imprinted...by Robert Barker, 1611. Tall folio (40 cm; 15.75 inches). A6(-A2–5)B2C6D4 2A–2C6 3A–3C6 2D6 E–Z6 Aa–Zz6 Aaa–Zzz6 Aaaa–Zzzz6 Aaaaa–Zzzzz6 Aaaaaa6; 4A–4C6 3D6 2E–2Z6 (-2Aa1–6); unpaginated or folioed, but [744 of 754] ff.
Incontestably the King James version of the Bible has been one of the most influential books ever published, not only as a religious work, but as a work of English literature. As the noted (now, late) Alan G. Thomas wrote in his Great Books and Great Collectors (p. 110), "No book has had greater influence on the English language or on the English character." He further notes, "It was indeed fortunate that this majestic translation was achieved during one of the most creative periods in English literature, when the English language as we know it was growing out of medieval usages into prose that rolls like a great cathedral organ played by a master musician." As another influential work notes, "It has been described as `the only
literary masterpiece ever to have been produced by a committee,' and was the work of nearly fifty translators, organized in six groups" (Printing and the Mind of Man).
Discontent with earlier versions of the Bible in English had resulted in a conference at Hampton Court in 1604, at which the Puritan party, led by John Reynolds, convinced King James that a new Protestant translation was required. But, emblematic of the inclusiveness of approach that characterized the production of the "King James," the committee found that despite their avowedly Protestant mission, certain phrases and wordings even in the first Catholic New Testament in English (Rheims, 1585) were worthy of inclusion—as well as borrowings from the Tyndale, Wycliffite, Matthew's, Great, Geneva, and Bishops' Bibles (etc.).
That the text of the KJV is woven of so many English-biblical threads is part of its longevity-lending strength.
This first edition, first issue of the "King James" (i.e., the so-called "He" version) is printed in a large black-letter ("gothic") font, in double-column format within a ruled frame of the era's style, and with a generous use of woodcut initials and head- and tailpieces.
Printing and the Mind of Man 114; Herbert, Historical Catalogue of Printed Editions of the English Bible, 309; STC (rev.) 2216; Rumball-Petre, Rare Bibles, 122; Loftie, Century of Bibles, 1. Bound in 18th-century brown calf, rebacked and a piece of leather missing from the front cover replaced with leather of a different texture. Title-page probably from a different copy laid in. Lacking the four leaves of the preliminary matter (Dedication and part of the Translators' preface) and the final six leaves (end of Revelations).
Early and late leaves crudely remargined, lower corners of some other leaves torn off and repaired in a heavy-handed way. Title-page of N.T. torn with loss of perhaps 50%. A few short clean tears in some text leaves. Stains record the mishap of a reader who spilled some ink on six leaves and quickly wiped it away as much as possible, so that no words are illegible.
Despite losses noted, no tattering and no general foxing or staining. Far from a perfect copy but a pleasing one, priced in accordance with its faults.
This Bible "stars" in PRB&M's Book Adventure No. 5 —
click here for a recounting.