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The Bible Museum
by on November 14, 2022

William Tyndale’s close friend, Myles Coverdale, translated, compiled, and published the Coverdale Bible in 1535. This was the first printed complete Bible in English. It can be called a ‘translation of a translation’ as it used source texts in Greek and Hebrew, along with translations in Latin and German (including Luther’s Bible).

As Myles Coverdale was the first individual to print an entire Bible in English, he perpetually secured his place in history. If you want to possess this piece of history but can’t get your hands on the original and rare Coverdale Bible, you can try buying a budget-friendly facsimile.

Publication of the Coverdale Bible

After Tyndale’s New Testament was published in numerous editions in the 1520s and 1530s, many people got used to reading or hearing the Bible in English. As a result, one of the closest friends of Tyndale, Myles Coverdale, translated and published what came to be known as the 1535 Coverdale Bible. It was the first complete Bible in English.

After Tyndale was arrested and awaited execution, it became less perilous to get the Bible translated into English. Yet, the first version of the Coverdale Bible was published abroad. After it went to print in Antwerp (the place of residence of Coverdale) in 1535, two editions were published in London in 1537. One of these was a folio and another quarto.

This was the first time a complete Bible in English was somewhat flatteringly dedicated to the King himself and printed in England openly.

Features of the Coverdale Bible

The 1535 Coverdale Bible contains the New and Old Testaments as well as the Apocrypha. Two columns are used to print the text, which is clearly laid out on the pages. The pages come with a handful of marginal annotations, along with book titles and chapter headings at the top to facilitate navigation.

This volume of the Bible has more than 150 illustrations. Hans Holbein the Younger designed the title page that depicts King Henry VIII as a dominant Reformation monarch and ‘Defender of the Faith.’ The page’s top section has the name of God directly over the King to indicate he received his religious authority directly from God.

Similar to Tyndale, Coverdale coined certain phrases and words, but most haven’t survived well. A surprising feature of the Coverdale Bible is the exclusion of the godly name in the form “Jehovah.” It’s interesting to note here that Tyndale used God’s name more than 20 times in his translation of the Hebrew Scriptures. But the 1535 Coverdale Bible omitted the word “Jehovah” altogether.”

Final Words

Though the Coverdale Bible was quickly superseded by the Great Bible, the former’s historical importance can’t be overlooked. However, its importance didn’t stem from the number of copies it sold or the readers it attracted. Instead, it was because the Coverdale Bible was the first complete Bible translation in modern English.

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