Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Word Does Its Work

I believe this was a significant factor in the rise of the Puritan movement.

In the twenty-one years between Tyndale’s first Testament in 1526 and Edward's accession in January 1547, there had been sixty-four editions…of a whole English Bible or New Testament. (In the same period, there had been no English printings of a Latin Bible, though there had been twenty-two across Europe.)…It represents a fair proportion of a population of two and a half million reading the Word of God, and uncountably more hearing it read.

After Edward’s succession, merely in his short six-year reign, however…the number of English editions of the whole Bible or New Testament printed was forty. That is an average of between six and seven a year…. This great expansion in the production of English Bibles in the six years under Edward has not been prominent in the writings of Early Modern History. It has, indeed, been quite removed from the picture….

One of the Edwardian editions, of Psalms, marks, probably in 1549, the first appearance of a little book which, with larger contents, was to have colossal influence on British and American religious life, matched only by the New Testament. Modestly entitled Certain Psalms, chosen out of the Psalter by Thomas Sternhold, this book is the first, with nineteen Psalms, of what was to become the phenomenal ‘Sternhold and Hopkins’, all the Psalm arranged metrically for congregational singing….

Using the…probably over-modest figure of an average printing run of two thousand yields a total printed, in Edward’s reign, of some eighty thousand English Bibles, all in six years.

David Daniell, The Bible in English, 245-6


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