The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it, Psalm 68:11.
Printing was not an easy task in 1611. Almost every process needed an understanding or compact to be made with respective guilds. There were paper making guilds. There were ink guilds. There were guilds for the men running the presses. There were guilds for the transporters. To complicate matters even more, the very right to print was considered to be owned by the crown and was sublet to whomsoever the crown willed. That was usually the highest bidder who then had a theoretical monopoly.
The history of printing the King James Bible is riddled with the lawsuits and seizures associated with men trying to break the monopolies and men seeking to enforce them. To confound matters, the Dutch had a more liberal printing scheme in their nation and profited greatly by flooding the English Market with illegal Bibles. Just as a modern flea market might have counterfeit Levi Jeans or Gucci purses, so an English shop might well have a Dutch knock off of the King James Bible sold for considerably less than the official printer's copy. Accuracy suffered.
As I have written before in this blog, imagine working in a poorly lit workshop with the haze of either smoke from a fireplace, tallow from candles, or sweat pouring into your eyes. Meticulously you set the letters for the next page you are printing. You must set blocks for commas, for colons, for verse markings, for italics and even blocks for blank places. You work for untold hours that almost always entails 12 hour days 6 days a week. You work for a man who is deeply in debt and who cannot pay on his debts until you have completed hundreds and hundreds of such pages, and each of those pages has been printed, collated and bound.
Errors are bound to happen and in fact there were 5000 such errors in the first volume of the King James Bible to come off the press. Correcting an error was not as simple as going back to that tray of block type and exchanging a letter. Each tray was torn apart after it was used and the individual blocks were used in the next tray. If you worked for Robert Barker, the King's Printer you watched him occasionally slip stacks of old pages from the Bishops Bible into the stack of pages waiting to be bound. He had no shame and the records in English courts show that he was sued for such shenanigans.
1. From 1611 until 1628, Barker had the exclusive right to print Bibles. They are worth much in the sense of antiquity, but are very poor quality for understanding what the original handwritten manuscript prepared by the translators actually said. After 1619 there are many Bibles printed by Norton and Bill in London but they are partners of Robert Barker.
2. In 1628, a printer by the name of Hart published a New Testament in Edinborough, Scotland which had the king's imprimatur. More importantly, Cambridge University Printers published a New Testament having wrestled a charter from Charles I. In 1629 they published a complete Bible which is the first purification of the King James Bible in a furnace of earth.
3. In 1638, two translators, Ward and Bois helped in the editing of the text and released the Bible that was to be the Bible used during the English Civil War, The Glorious Revolution of 1688 and Queen Anne's War. It was the Bible in the saddle bags of the English Army as it transformed a minor insular kingdom into the dominant Empire of history. In 1701 Oxford began printing it under the title, The Bishop Lloyd Bible. Due to not having a river for transport and due to the better deals the guilds gave Oxford, the Cambridge Printers ceased from printing Bibles until 1743. The 1638 Cambridge is the second purification of the King James Bible.
4. In 1762 F.S. Parris released the 1762 Cambridge Bible introducing modern orthography and a better edited text. He also introduced a new error. From then until 1873, Nahum 3:16 said "fleeth" instead of "flieth". Oxford still retains the error as well as various American printers. His is the 3rd purification of the text.
5. In 1769, The Clarendon Press (Oxford's printing arm) released the Blayney Bible which was the culmination of seven years of editing and collating by Dr. Benjamin Blayney. He incorporated Parris's orthographical updates, but filtered past errors more meticulously. For the next two decades, Cambridge slowly incorporated the differences in the two texts until they were virtually identical. This would be the Bible of the American Revolution, the Napoleonic Wars, and the American Civil war. It is the 4th purification of the text.
6. The 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible was a commercial flop in that the public wisely rejected the Bible in a paragraph form. It was however the version which edited out various nagging problems that had accumulated over the centuries. Scrivener, the editor also used it to sow doubt. He placed I John 5:7 in italics to indicate that it had no basis in Greek. His suggesting that I John 5:7 was in doubt, necessitated him capitalizing the word "spirit" in I John 5:8. (Modern editors who capitalize the the word "spirit" in I John 5:8 are actually casting aspersion on I John 5:7 by forcing the "Spirit" of I John 5:6 to be in tandem with I John 5:8. They are not in tandem.) Regardless of the mixed message it sent, the 1873 Cambridge Bible is the 5th purification of the text. Cambridge abandoned it quickly and began to print the Blayney Bible again until after WWI.
7. Somewhere right after WWI, A.W. Pollard released the 6th purification of the King James Bible. It is almost exactly the text we use today. He spent the war years refining Scrivener's work. He detailed Scrivener's errors in Documents of the English Bible.
8. From the end of WWI until somewhere in the 1920s, Cambridge put the silver of the Word of God which had been purified 6 times back into the furnace of earth. To a all but a master silversmith, the silver which had been run through the kiln six times would look perfect. The master silversmith knew better. He knew that putting that lump of silver back into the kiln one last time would burn out those last bits of dross. As the silver boiled, small, almost imperceptible puffs of white smoke would occasionally puff out. The Cambridge University Press offered the worldwide English speaking public small financial rewards for every error they found in the text. If a comma was missing, if a letter was poorly formed, or an italics was incomplete, the person notifying Cambridge would get a sum of money. Within a decade, the 7th purification of the King James Bible was complete.
9. We live in an age when our Bible is under attack. I'm not talking about NIV lunkheads, or New King James Bible men. Neither am I talking about Greekifiers. I'm talking about subtle changes to the jots and tittles. It is far more of a grief to the Spirit of God than most men will acknowledge. A perfect Bible requires a perfect text. If someone doubts that, I cannot help them. It is entirely self evident. If someone legitimately doubts which text is right, I am right here to help. Perhaps you will disagree when we are done, but at least you understood that the issue is important.