Geneva Bible.

Printed: 1608

Publisher: Robert Barker. London

Dimensions 19 × 24 × 9 cm

Language: Not stated

Size (cminches): 19 x 24 x 9


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In a black fitted box with gilt title. Professionally rebound in brown leather binding with embossed date and pattern on the front board. Maroon title plate with gilt band and lettering on the spine.

F.B.A. provides an in-depth photographic presentation of this item to stimulate your feel and touch. More traditional book descriptions are immediately available.

A great work perfected by Robert Barker who later went on to publish King James and the wicked Bible. This is a genuine old rendition and NOT a backdated copy to circumvent James I’s ban.

Simply the best. Brian Cole has rebound and reworked this Bible back to its original condition. Now housed in a magnificent worked protective case this Bible is a joy to hold and read – there are just not enough superlatives to describe Brian’s craftsmanship.


The Geneva Bible is one of the most historically significant translations of the Bible into English, preceding the King James Version by 51 years. It was the primary Bible of 16th-century English Protestantism and was used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell, John Knox, John Donne, and others. It was one of the Bibles taken to America on the Mayflower. (Pilgrim Hall Museum has collected several Bibles of Mayflower passengers.) The Geneva Bible was used by many English Dissenters, and it was still respected by Oliver Cromwell’s soldiers at the time of the English Civil War, in the booklet The Souldiers Pocket Bible.

This version of the Bible is significant because, for the first time, a mechanically printed, mass-produced Bible was made available directly to the general public which came with a variety of scriptural study guides and aids (collectively called an apparatus), which included verse citations that allow the reader to cross-reference one verse with numerous relevant verses in the rest of the Bible, introductions to each book of the Bible that acted to summarize all of the material that each book would cover, maps, tables, woodcut illustrations and indices.

Because the language of the Geneva Bible was more forceful and vigorous, most readers strongly preferred this version to the Great Bible. In the words of Cleland Boyd McAfee, “it drove the Great Bible off the field by sheer power of excellence”.

In 1604, the year after he ascended the English throne, King James I hosted and presided over a conference pertaining to matters religious, the Hampton Court Conference. While the Geneva Bible was the preferred Bible of Anglican and Puritan Protestants during the Elizabethan Age, the new king disliked the Geneva Bible and made his views clearly known at the conference: “I think that of all [English Bibles], that of Geneva is the worst.” Apparently, his distaste for the Geneva Bible arose less from the translation than from the marginal annotations. He felt strongly many of the annotations were “very partial, untrue, seditious, and savouring too much of dangerous and traitorous conceits . .” In all likelihood, he saw the Geneva’s comments upon biblical passages as anti-clerical “republicanism”, which could imply that an ecclesiastical hierarchy was unnecessary. Other comments, notably references to monarchs as “tyrants”, appeared particularly seditious. It followed that the need for a king as head of church and state could be questioned, too. James had been dealing with similar issues with the Presbyterian-Calvinist religious leaders in his native Scotland, where he reigned as James VI, and he wanted none of the same controversies in England. Also, if annotations were in print, readers might believe these interpretations correct and fixed, making it more difficult to change his subjects’ minds about the meanings of passages.

So, when towards the end of the conference two Puritans suggested that a new translation of the Bible be produced to better unify the Anglican Church in England and Scotland, James embraced the idea. He would not only be rid of those inconvenient annotations but have greater influence on the translation of the Bible as a whole. He commissioned and chartered a new translation of the Bible which would eventually become the most famous version of the Bible in the history of the English language. Officially known as the Authorized Version to be read in churches, the new Bible would come to bear his name as the so-called King James Bible or King James Version (KJV) elsewhere or casually. The first and early editions of the King James Bible from 1611 and the first few decades thereafter lack annotations, unlike nearly all editions of the Geneva Bible up until that time. Initially, the King James Version did not sell well and competed with the Geneva Bible. Shortly after the first edition of the KJV, King James banned the printing of new editions of the Geneva Bible to further entrench his version. However, Robert Barker continued to print Geneva Bibles even after the ban, placing the spurious date of 1599 on new copies of Geneva’s which were actually printed between about 1616 and 1625. Despite popular misconception, the Puritan Separatists or Pilgrim Fathers aboard the Mayflower in 1620 brought to North America copies of the Geneva Bible.

The Great Bible of 1539 was the first authorized edition of the Bible in English, authorized by King Henry VIII of England to be read aloud in the church services of the Church of England. The Great Bible was prepared by Myles Coverdale, working under commission of Thomas, Lord Cromwell, Secretary to Henry VIII and Vicar General. In 1538, Cromwell directed the clergy to provide “one book of the Bible of the largest volume in English, and the same set up in some convenient place within the said church that ye have care of, whereas your parishioners may most commodiously resort to the same and read it.”

The Great Bible includes much from the Tyndale Bible, with the objectionable features revised. As the Tyndale Bible was incomplete, Coverdale translated the remaining books of the Old Testament and Apocrypha from the Latin Vulgate and German translations, rather than working from the original Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic texts. Although called the Great Bible because of its large size, it is known by several other names as well: the Cromwell Bible, since Thomas Cromwell directed its publication; Whitchurch’s Bible after its first English printer; the Chained Bible, since it was chained to prevent removal from the church. It has less accurately been termed Cranmer’s Bible, since although Thomas Cranmer was not responsible for the translation, a preface by him appeared in the second edition.

Robert Barker (died 1643) was a printer to James I of England and son of Christopher Barker, who had been printer to Queen Elizabeth I. He was most notably the printer of the King James Bible, one of the most influential and important books ever printed in the English language. He and co-publisher Martin Lucas published the infamous “Wicked Bible”, which contained a typographical error omitting the word not from the sentence Thou shalt not commit adultery.

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