Updated: Feb 15
We looked at the needed change in orthography in my last post. We saw that a modern Cambridge Bible is different from a 17th century King James Bible in four respects. The font is more readable. The punctuation, capitalizations and the spelling are modern. It was Cambridge Printers who were first to begin the innovations that resulted in such a new and more effective look for the King James Bible.
Whether or not the the King James Bible would survive as the preferred bible for England stood in doubt during the English Civil War. 100 years later the King James Bible was the only bible England knew. Well into the 4th decade of the 18th century, Cambridge sat on the sidelines. In the economic realm Cambridge had lost out to Oxford. Oxford had better deals with the various guilds and was better situated to use river transport for shipping.
In 1701 Oxford began to publish what they referred to as the Bishop Lloyd's Bible which was essentially the 1638 Cambridge Bible but prepared for printing by Oxford. When I first held a Bishop Lloyd's Bible in my hands I had an instant admiration for any British Army officer who traveled with one in his bag. It is large. Think of a dictionary on a pedestal in a library, the kind that libraries keep open and available on a desk for patrons. They are big. The Bishop Lloyd Bible used the Roman type but the old spelling and the old punctuation. It took dedication to Jesus Christ to carry such a cumbersome book in a bag and ride out with the cavalry.
About the year 1715, John Baskett became the official printer at Oxford and after a rough start he gained a good reputation for good quality, affordable bibles. His start was so rough that his bibles were initially called a Baskett full of errors. One of his first offerings is known as the Vinegar Bible because of a misprint on the header in Luke 20 which should have read "The Parable of the Vineyard" but instead said "The Parable of the Vinegar".
In 1743 Cambridge printed another bible. It is one of the few bibles of antiquity to have eluded me, the only copy being in the London Bible House, an institution with which I have no contact. It is an important bible in that it represents Dr. F.S. Parris putting Cambridge back into the bible business. I have no reason to suspect that it is anything other than the Cambridge 1638 with minor revisions. It is Dr. Parris's next work which radically changed the appearance and the printing of King James Bibles.
In 1762 Cambridge printed the first modern King James Bible. Its very appearance on the market was a blow to Oxford's almost complete dominance over Cambridge. Why would any person buy an Oxford Bible when the spelling was outdated and the punctuation no longer conformed to modern usage? In my next post we will look more carefully at this edition.