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Before and After the Hampton Court Conference, 1604

Henry VIII distributes Bibles
Detail from title page of the Great Bible (London, 1539)

New exhibition "The Bible in English: Before and After the Hampton Court Conference, 1604" opens at Firestone Library

Exhibition Dates: May 1, 2004 through August 8, 2004.

On May 1, the Princeton University Library opens a new exhibition marking the 400th anniversary of an important event in the history of the English Bible. 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. For more than two and a half centuries following no other authorized translation was made. The millions of copies printed over the years witness to its standing not only as generally acceptable to English readers of whatever denomination but also as a monument of the English language.

To mark this special anniversary, the Princeton University Library is exhibiting more than sixty early English Bibles. Dating before the King James, the earliest Bibles in the show demonstrate the tumultuous political and literary history leading up to that translation. They include manuscript copies of the Wycliffite Bible, considered the earliest complete renderings 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 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 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 very few universities in the world capable of mounting an historic English Bible exhibition from collections on its campus. This distinction is due to the presence here of the Scheide Library, a treasure collection gathered over the past one hundred and twenty five years by three generations. The Bibles on display were gathered chiefly by John Hinsdale Scheide, Class of 1896, son of the Library's founder, William Taylor Scheide, and father of the present owner, William Hurd Scheide, Class of 1936.

Two of the other libraries capable of producing this exhibition from their own collections are also doing so. Preceding the Princeton exhibition was that at the Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University. Subsequent to the Princeton show will be that mounted by the John Rylands Library, Manchester University.

Available at the Princeton exhibition will be a new illustrated study of the English Bible: Let It Go Among Our People: An Illustrated History of the Bible in English from Wyclif to the King James Bible, published by Lutterworth Press in Cambridge, England and written by David Price, Associate Professor of History at SMU and Charles C. Ryrie, Professor of Theology, Emeritus at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Professors Price and Ryrie, who also curated the SMU exhibition, will be speaking to the Friends of the Library on May 1 at the James Stewart Theatre, 185 Nassau Street, at 4 pm.

The exhibition is open free to the public from May 1 through August 8, 2004 in the main gallery of the Firestone Library, Princeton University, One Washington Road, Princeton, NJ 08544. Hours: Weekdays, 9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 5:00 - 8:00 p.m.; and weekends, 12 noon - 5:00 p.m. Summer visiting hours starting on June 7 are weekdays, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.; Wednesday evenings, 4:30 - 7:30 p.m.; Weekends, 12 noon - 5:00 p.m. Further information available at Email: rbsc@princeton.edu Telephone: (609) 258 3184.

Link to Handlist of Exhibits

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