When 18th-century seafarer John Robbins penned his name in Asbury Theological Seminary’s newly acquired Geneva Bible, we wonder if he had any idea that his personal Bible would live an even more adventurous life than he. The Geneva Bible was first published in 1560, and our edition was published in 1601. This 400-year-old Bible has travelled far. You can see it now in the glass case across from the main Information Commons Desk at the B.L. Fisher library, on the Kentucky Campus of Asbury Seminary.
This Bible came to us as a gift from Bruce and Robyn Pratt. Dr. Pratt is a D.Min. graduate of the seminary. He bought the book at a used book store in London and decided that the high humidity of a Texas home would not preserve the Bible as well as a library archive. We are grateful for this generous donation.
The Geneva Bible was translated and annotated by English expatriates living in Geneva during the reign of Queen Mary I of England (1553-1558). Fleeing Mary's persecution of Protestants, they wanted to create a translation that was evocative of the Protestant movement and the general claim to freedom against Papal and oppressive royal rule. The first edition was published in 1560, and about 150 editions were printed in all. King James I of England (1566-1625) disapproved of the Geneva Bible’s political and Calvinist leanings and authorized the creation of the King James Bible. However, the Geneva Bible remained the preferred household Bible for years later, and set sail with Mayflower travelers; abbreviated versions were distributed to Cromwell’s soldiers.
The Bible is distinctive in three ways: the 1560 version was printed in Roman type; it was the first English translation to use numbered verses; and the authors employed italics to indicate English idioms not present in the original text. The book was intended for the people and its size and price reflected that. Most printings of the Bible were no more than 7” x 10” and sold for a price affordable to the common person.
We are fortunate to have acquired this Geneva Bible. We are currently researching John Robbins, previous owner of the book. We invite you to view images online at our gallery: Please stop by the library to see the Bible for yourself and share your impressions with us.
-Beth Fogler & Grace Yoder, with Isaiah Allen, Brian Yeich and Robbie Danielson
Brake, Donald L. A Visual History of the English Bible: The Tumultuous Tale of the World’s Bestselling Book. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2008. (ATS Library BS455 .B635 2008)
Bruce, F. F. The English Bible: a History of Translations. London: Lutterworth Press, 1961.
(ATS Library BS455 .B74)
Metzger, Bruce. “The Geneva Bible of 1560.” Theology Today, vol. 17 (3), 1960.
Noss, Philip A., ed. A History of Bible Translation. Roma: Edizioni Di Storia E Letteratura, 2007. (ATS Library BS450 .H57 2007)