Professor Gordon Campbell Celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the King James Version of the English Bible

2011 is the 400th anniversary of the publication of the King James Version of the Bible and Professor Gordon Campbell, who teaches Renaissance Literature at the University of Leicester, is giving a series of lectures on the King James Version in Great Britain, Ireland, the United States and Canada, as well as in France and Belgium.

The Oxford University Press has published a luxury limited edition of the 1611 King James Bible to mark the anniversary of the translation. This edition is bound in leather, with gilt edging, a ribbon marker, gift presentation plate and protective maroon cloth slipcase.

The original typeface was Gothic, and difficult for us to read today so OUP have reset the text in Roman type. They have reproduced the original “word for word and letter for letter” including all the typing errors of the original publication, upside-down letters and and all.

OUP have also kept the pictorial letters that open each chapter of the Bible. Many contain classical allusions and make connections between other parts of the Bible that are lost in modern editions.

The contents of the 1611 Bible included 74 pages of preliminaries, such as genealogies running from Adam to Christ, maps of the Holy Land, ways of calculating Easter, perpetual calendars and so on.

The Apocrypha is also included. It was only dropped from Bibles by the British and Foreign Bible Society in the nineteenth century.

Professor Campbell explains that the printing of the King James Bible achieved a very high standard but, even so, it contains about 350 errors including the repetition of a complete line in the book of Ruth. A list of the errors is included in this 400th anniversary edition.

The King James Bible was, as it says on the title page, “appointed to be read in churches” in other words, it was a Bible that was translated to be read aloud in churches, cathedrals and private households where the head of the house would read it during family devotions.

“It is this that accounts for the rhythms of the Authorised Version, the King James version, it accounts for its grammar, it accounts for its punctuation. It’s meant to be read aloud.”

Gordon Campbell

A page from the OUP’s Quatercentenary Edition of the KJV