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Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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Bible exhibition marks 400th anniversary, May 1-Aug. 8

The Princeton University Library has opened a new exhibition marking the 400th anniversary of an important event in the history of the English Bible. "The Bible in English: Before and After the Hampton Court Conference, 1604," on view May 1 through Aug. 8 in the main gallery of the Firestone Library, features more than 60 early English Bibles.

In 1604, English bishops, Puritan leaders and other churchmen convened by James I gathered at Hampton Court Palace for the purpose of determining "things pretended to be amiss in the church." One result was the renowned King James Bible, first published seven years later.

The earliest Bibles in the exhibition, dating before the King James version, demonstrate the tumultuous political and literary history leading up to that translation. They include manuscript copies of the Wycliffite Bible, considered the earliest complete rendering of the scriptures into English. Although appearing as early as the 1380s, the Wycliffite Bibles were banned in 1408 by an ecclesiastical act. Even though printing in England started in the 1470s, no part of the English Bible was printed before 1525, no complete Bible before 1535 and none in England before 1538.

The first printings, also on display, were the translations of William Tyndale, once chaplain to a noble family who fled to Hamburg because there was "no place to do [the translation] in all of englonde." Although deemed "untrue translations," Tyndale's work served as the foundation for subsequent English versions, such as those of Miles Coverdale (1535), Thomas Matthew (1537), the Great Bible (1539), the Geneva Bible (1590) and the Bishop's Bible (1568). Visitors can see rare copies of these Bibles in the exhibition.

Princeton is one of the few universities in the world capable of mounting a historic English Bible exhibition from collections on its campus. This distinction is due to the presence here of the Scheide Library.

More information on the exhibition is available on the library's Web site.

Contact: Ruth Stevens (609) 258-3601

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