Monday, March 7, 2016

Curious Bibles by William S Walsh 1893

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Curious Bibles, a general term given to certain editions of the Scriptures which are distinguished by peculiar errors of the printers, or some strange choice of words by the translators. The most famous of these, arranged in chronological order, are as follows:

"Then the eies of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked, and they sewed figge tree leaves together and made themselves breeches."—Gen. iii. 7. Printed in 1560. In the Authorized Version, published in 1611, this picturesque attire has been changed to "aprons."

"So that thou shalt not nede to be afraid for any bugges by nighte, nor for the arrow that flyeth by day."—Ps. xci. 5. Printed in 1561. Bug was originally identical with bogie, and has substantially the same meaning as "terror," the word substituted in the Authorized Version.

"Blessed are the place-makers; for they shall be called the children of God."—Matt. v. 9. Printed in 1561-2. A version that should be in great request with practical politicians of all parties.

THE TREACLE BIBLE. "Is there not treacle at Gilead? Is there no physician there?"—Jer: viii. 22. Printed in 1568.

"Is there no rosin in Gilead? Is there no physician there?"—Jer. viii. 22. A Douay version, printed in 1609.

This extraordinary name has been given to an edition of the Authorized Bible, printed in London by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas in 1631. The negative was left out of the seventh commandment, and William Kilburne, writing in 1659, says that, owing to the zeal of Dr. Usher, the printer was fined £2000 or £3000.

The same title has been given to the Bible which its publishers called the "Pearl Bible," from the size of the type used, which was published in 1653, and contained the following among other errata:

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of righteousness [for unrighteousness] unto sin.—Rom. vi. 13.
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall inherit [for shall not inherit] the kingdom of God? — 1 Cor. vi. 9.

These errata made the Wicked Bibles very popular among the libertines of the period, who urged the texts as "pleas of justification" against the reproofs of the divines.

'The Parable of the Vinegar," instead of "The Parable of the Vineyard," appears in the chapter-heading to Luke xx. in an Oxford edition of the Authorized Version which was published in 1717.

This ghastly name has been won by an edition published in 1801, from an error in the sixteenth verse of the Epistle of Jude, where the word "murmurers" is rendered "murderers."

TO-REMAIN BIBLE. "Persecuted him that was born after the spirit to remain, even so it is now." —Gal. iv. 29. This typographical error, which was perpetuated in the first 8vo Bible printed for the Bible Society, takes its chief importance from the curious circumstances under which it arose. A 12mo Bible was being printed at Cambridge in 1805, and the proof-reader, being in doubt as to whether or not he should remove a comma, applied to his superior, and the reply, pencilled on the margin, "to remain," was transferred to the body of the text, and was repeated in the Bible Society's 8vo edition of 1805-6, and also in another 12mo edition of 1819.

"I discharge thee before God."—1 Tim. v. 21. Printed in 1806.

"And it shall come to pass that the fishes will stand upon it," etc.—Ezek. xlvii. 10. Printed in 1806.

"Who hath ears to ear, let him hear."—Matt. xiii. 43. Printed in 1810.

THE WIFE-HATER BIBLE. "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, . . . yea, and his own wife also," etc.—Luke xiv. 26. Printed in 1810.

"And Rebekah arose, and her camels."—Gen. xxiv. 61. Printed in 1823.

Though not technically ranked among "Curious Bibles," the most extraordinary bit of Biblical eccentricity is a New Testament issued by the Rev. Edward Harwood, D.D., an eighteenth-century divine, whose happy thought it was "to clothe the genuine ideas and doctrines of the apostles with that propriety and perspicuity in which they themselves, I apprehend, would have exhibited them, had they now lived and written in our language." The good doctor, though pained that "the bald and barbarous language of the old vulgar version" had from long usage "acquired a venerable sacredness," was not without a hope that an "attempt to diffuse over the sacred page the elegance of modern English" might allure "men of cultivated and improved minds" to a book "now, alas, too generally neglected."

Dr. Harwood, therefore, proceeded to make the New Testament an eminently genteel book. Every word that had dropped out of vogue in polite circles was plucked away, the very plain-spoken warning to the Laodicean Church assuming in his version this form: "Since, therefore, you are now in a state of lukewarmness, a disagreeable medium between the two extremes, I will, in no long time, eject you from my heart with fastidious contempt." The sentence is certainly delicious; but when we remember who the speaker is, we find we are laughing at something like blasphemy. We may, however, laugh with a clear conscience at the description of Nicodemus as "this gentleman," of St. Paul's Athenian convert Damaris as "a lady of distinction," and of the daughter of Herodias as "a young lady who danced with inimitable grace and elegance." "Young lady, rise," are the words addressed to the daughter of Jairus. The father of the Prodigal is "a gentleman of splendid family;" St. Peter, on the Mount of Transfiguration, exclaims, "Oh, sir! what a delectable residence we might fix here," and St. Paul is raised to the standard of Bristolian respectability by having a "portmanteau" conferred upon him in place of the mere cloak mentioned by himself as having been left by him at Troas. The apostolic statement, "We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed," appears thus: "We shall not all pay the common debt of nature, but we shall, by a soft transition, be changed from mortality to immortality."

Even after reading these prodigious translations we are hardly prepared for a meddling with the Magnificat and the Nunc Dimittis. But Dr. Harwood's passion for elegance stuck at nothing, and the "men of cultivated and improved minds" must have Harwoodian versions of the two great hymns of Christendom. Here are the openings of both:

"My soul with reverence adores my Creator, and all my faculties with transport join in celebrating the goodness of God, my Saviour, who hath in so signal a manner condescended to regard my poor and humble station. Transcendent goodness! every future age will now conjoin in celebrating my happiness."

"O God! thy promise to me is amply fulfilled! I now quit the post of human life with satisfaction and joy, since thou hast indulged mine eyes with so divine a spectacle as the great Messiah."

To use Dr. Harwood's own words, this edition of the New Testament leaves the most exacting velleity without ground for quiritation.

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