The Geneva Bible
The Geneva Bible
The Geneva Bible (1560) was prepared in Switzerland by English speaking churchmen in exile from Catholic persecution at home, among whom were John Knox (c. 1514-1572) and Myles Coverdale (1488-1569). It is regarded as the most outstanding English translation of the Reformation era. Printed by Rowland Hall (d. 1563) in Geneva, it was richly furnished with introductory material, summaries, marginal notes (some provocative), tables, maps, lists, and indexes. It was also the first English Bible to introduce verse numbers, and the first to use roman rather than gothic or black-letter type. It was designed as a study Bible.
The scholarship of the textual work was greatly enhanced by the latest Continental advances, and by the direct access that the English translators had to leading biblical scholars and theologians such as John Calvin (1509-1564), Théodore de Bèze (1519-1605), and Henry Bullinger (1504-1575).
Addressed to the ‘Brethren of England, Scotland, Ireland’, the Geneva Bible was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth (1533-1603). It became the preferred Bible for family devotions, but was also favoured by biblical scholars, clergy and lay people for private study. The Geneva Bible was adopted by the Scottish Kirk soon after 1560 as its ‘common book’ for use in churches. It went through 140 editions up to 1644 (although first published in England only in 1576) retaining popularity for a couple of generations after the King James Bible was first published.
The Geneva Bible was the first Bible printed in Scotland (1579), and dedicated to James VI. This was undertaken by the Edinburgh publisher, Thomas Bassandyne (d. 1577), and completed by Alexander Arbuthnet (d. 1585). It is sometimes referred to as the Bassandyne Bible or Breeches Bible.
The Bassandyne Bible was published at the request of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, which ordered that a copy be acquired by every parish church. This edition was the first example of subscription publishing in the British Isles, but compulsory rather than voluntary – the Scottish Government also decreed that not only parishes but everyone above a certain income should purchase it.
The Bible and Holy Scriptures ... With most profitable annotations upon all the hard places. Geneva, 1560.