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The Library's New Rare Bible.

In July the National Library acquired a copy of the 1550 edition of the Coverdale Bible. Miles Coverdale (1488-1568) produced the first English translation of the complete Bible in 1535 and a revised edition in 1550, with three slightly different printings known. No perfect copies of the original 1535 edition are thought to exist and the 1550 edition is very rare. The State Library of Victoria is the only other Australian library known to hold a copy of the 1550 edition.

The National Library's copy was most likely printed by Christopher Froschauer in Zurich. As the title page evocatively proclaims, the printing was undertaken at the behest of 'Andrew Hestere, dwellynge in Paules churchyard at the sygne of the white horse' and was 'there to be solde'. The complete history of the Library's copy is unknown, but for many years it was privately owned by Alfred E. Bright, who was Chairman of the Trustees of the Felton Bequest to the National Gallery of Victoria in the late 1920s or early 1930s. It is in remarkable condition for its age and has obviously been treasured by its previous owners.

Coverdale's translations of the Bible are notable for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the literary quality of the prose. Many of Coverdale's original phrases were retained in the later authorised version. Coverdale Bibles were also the first to include chapter summaries and the first in which the Apocrypha was separated and included in an appendix to the Old Testament.

The Coverdale Bible is a valuable addition to the Library's already significant collection of rare Bibles in print, microfilm and electronic format. While the 1550 edition is now the earliest and most complete English Bible held by the Library, a digital version of the 1535 edition, together with many other early translations of the Bible, can be viewed online through the electronic resource, Early English Books Online, which is available onsite at the Library.

Meredith Batten

Manager, Overseas Collection Development
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Author:Batten, Meredith
Publication:National Library of Australia Gateways
Geographic Code:8AUST
Date:Oct 1, 2007
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