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Enter Cambridge Part I

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

The words of the LORD are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times, Psalm 12:6.

Within the first two decades of the advent of the King James Bible, its printing, editing and dissemination had grown hopelessly corrupt. Bible printing was a jealously held franchise in England and there were many vested forces seeking to keep it that way. Every process of printing had a guild. There were printer's guilds, ink maker's guilds, paper maker guilds and guilds that controlled the transport of raw materials and finished product.

A printer seeking to print bibles would run into walls of deeply entrenched customs and attitudes that dated back to the middle ages. If a printer held a patent to print from a proper royal authority it authorized him not just to print a bible, but to legally contract with each of the respective guilds necessary to complete such a project. This is the world that the Cambridge Press entered when it sought to exercise its right to print bibles.

To be accurate Cambridge had been printing books since 1534. The election of Thomas Buck to the office of Printer at Cambridge was to be a turning point. The printing enterprise was floundering in part because of litigation over matters of patent and guilds. The London Printing house controlled now by Bonham Norton embroiled Cambridge in law suits in order to suppress their newly asserted privilege of printing bibles. Buck was to overcome these things for a time.

Eventually these market forces would squeeze Cambridge out of the bible market for over a century, but before those forces closed in to shut Cambridge out of profitability printing bibles, Cambridge was able to make their mark with two bibles of great importance. What Cambridge sought to do was to edit out the errors that had crept into the bible in its first two decades. They were in a good place to do so in that some of the translators such as Ward and Bois were still active and still had their notes.

Two other men, Thomas Goad and Joseph Mede were known to have helped them in their quest to restore the AV1611 to the purity of the handwritten manuscript purchased by Barker 18 years earlier. It cannot be emphasized enough that for 18 years each subsequent printing of the bible wrought a worse product than the bible before it. Cambridge sought to restore the word of God to its purity by collating existing bibles, but more importantly they had their own notes and probably had copies of the original handwritten manuscript delivered to the king.

What we are about to witness is the purifying of the word of God. Altogether there will be seven purifications of the King James Bible that took place between the first printing of the King James Bible and the form we know today. Cambridge was to provide most of the energy and scholarship for this cleansing, but as we will see, not all of it.

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