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“That the Scripture may speak like itself”: Translating the Bible into English, 1611-2011

October 13, 2011

In 1604, King James I of England charged a committee of approximately fifty scholars with the creation of a new English translation of the Bible, as close to the original Hebrew and Greek as possible, to be used for church services throughout England. 

Five years later, the translation that later came to be known as the King James Bible was published.  The translators goal was to be both accurate and comprehensible to the common reader or listener.  As the 1611 preface explains, “we desire that the Scripture may speak like itself, as in the language of Canaan, that it may be understood even of the very vulgar.”  However, in addition to accuracy and clarity, the translators achieved something else—a literary and religious masterpiece that fundamentally influenced the development of the English language and Anglophone literature over the next four centuries.

In celebration of the 400th anniversary of the King James Bible, UTSA Special Collections presents an exhibition of materials from the Perine-Dietert Bible Collection.  From William Tyndale’s publication of the first printed English New Testament in Germany in 1525, through the long reign of the 1611 translation, to the proliferation of new translations and interpretations in the 20th century, this exhibition traces the translation of scripture from Latin into the English vernacular and the far-reaching influence of the King James Bible. It will remain on display in the Special Collections Reading Room, on the fourth floor of the John Peace Library until January 20th, 2012. 

King James Bible 1611 (page spread) 

The Perine-Dietert Collection consists of more than fifty Bibles from the 16th to the 20th centuries, published in a variety of languages (Chinese, Chipewyan, English, Hebrew, Latin, and Russian, among others).  Also included in the collection are Korans, Books of Common Prayer, fragments and facsimile pages of notable Bibles, and a collection of Roman coins.  This collection is not yet cataloged, but may be viewed by appointment.  For more information, please contact UTSA Special Collections.   

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