Oxford University Press
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A Textual History of the King James Bible. By David Norton. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2005. xii + 387 pp. £55. ISBN 0 521 77100 5.

This Textual History presumably constitutes the apparatus for the forthcoming New Cambridge Paragraph Bible (NCPB), edited by Dr Norton. Despite the title, NCPB will not be a revision of F. H. A. Scrivener's 1873 Cambridge Paragraph Bible but a new, critical, edition of the Authorized Version (AV) or, as it is more commonly referred to today, the King James Bible (KJB) -- an edition not of KJB but specifically of the first edition, the folio of 1611.

As the present volume is apparently a fragment of this larger project a more considered judgement of Norton's venture must await the publication of NCPB itself, which will see his principles in action. Nonetheless, what we already have here represents a considerable achievement in its assembly of the evidence, even if some of it is of uncertain relevance -- why, for instance, bother to collate particular editions only to disregard the results?

What is the intended readership of NCPB? Apparently Cambridge University Press intends that it become the standard text for future printings of KJB. But given Norton's editorial principles it is likely to satisfy few of those with a keen interest in KJB. The AVolators, who consider the typographical form of 1611 to be as divinely inspired as the text itself, would probably be better provided for by a new, literatim, setting of 1611 or by a Hinman-style facsimile, but the presence of intra-edition variants in 1611 shows that AVolatory and bibliography are not compatible. Those more concerned with the intellectual content of KJB will probably be disappointed that Norton has not taken the opportunity to edit the translation itself, rather than maintaining the readings of 1611 even when manifestly imperfect. There is not enough offered in justification of editing KJB solely in its 1611 manifestation, particularly if the resulting text is indeed to become the standard for future printings of KJB as a whole.

The Textual History is divided into three parts: Part 1 (pp. 1­127) is the history of KJB -- the translation, the first edition, and subsequent editions up to 1769; Part 2 (pp. 129­64) is a statement and discussion of the procedures employed in producing NCPB; and Part 3 (pp. 165­361) consists of nine appendices, including 'Printer's Errors in the First Edition' (pp. 167­72) and 'Variant Readings in the KJB Text' (pp. 198­355), the result of a collation of 1611 with selected later editions.

It remains unresolved what form Robert Barker's printer's copy took: was it an annotated Bishops' Bible, a manuscript clean copy of the new version, or something else? How faithful is the printed text to the intentions of the six companies entrusted with the translation? And what did the printing house itself contribute to the published version? Incomplete answers to these questions are given by two surviving documents that provide clues to the translators' intentions, though neither in its present form can have been used by Barker: what their relationship is to the printer's copy cannot be determined.

The first is Lambeth Palace MS 98, the notes of John Bois, one of the translators, representing work in progress on the Epistles. However, the notes 'bear on only three readings that are contentious in the textual history of the KJB' (p. 34). The second is 'Bod 1602', an annotated copy of the 1602 folio Bishops' Bible now in the Bodleian Library (Bibl. Eng. 1602.b.1), but where it fits into the process of coordinating the [End Page 99] revisions of the various companies is puzzling: though complete in its sheets it is incomplete in its annotations, which curiously contain part of the material from four of the companies.

Editorial revision of KJB took place as early as in the Cambridge folios of 1629 and 1638, but subsequently it was subject to the textual corruption to be expected in any frequently reprinted text. Comprehensive revision, involving correction, normalization, modernization, and the provision of additional marginal notes, was finally undertaken in the 1760s, by F. S. Parris in 1762 at Cambridge and by Benjamin Blayney in 1769 at Oxford. Blayney's has been regarded as the standard text of KJB ever since, and what we read today is essentially 1611 as modified by Blayney.

The first of Norton's two overriding editorial principles is 'that the text should be that of the translators, not that of subsequent revisers, and that the text of the translators is the first edition [. . .]. No attempt should be made to correct perceived errors of scholarship' (p. 131). This principle is based on an assumption that 'the text of the KJB should present the translators' understanding of the originals as they meant to express it' (p. 29), purged of 'mechanical errors', but, given the inability to determine with certainty the translators' precise intentions, it can be implemented with confidence only intermittently.

The second principle is 'that the text should be modernised [. . .]. The basic elements of the modernisation are spelling and punctuation' (p. 131). This principle acknowledges that 'for the most part, neither of these involve deliberate intentions of the translators and so do not demand respect and reverence in the way that the readings do' (p. 131). Despite the apparent simplicity of this principle it is no easier of implementation. Readers will agonize along with Norton in his effort on several fronts to make a principle of inconsistency.

Fundamentally Norton is concerned with readings, divorced from settings: there is little, for example, to suggest that he has used the evidence of settings to establish priority where variants exist within 1611. In general the argument is weak in matters broadly bibliographical, such as in assuming that apprentices distributed type and were therefore ultimately responsible for instances of 'foule case' that found their way into print (p. 54), or in even entertaining the possibility that Barker printed a 'fair copy', which Bilson and Smith, who prepared the text for printing, could have annotated to create printer's copy for 1611 (pp. 24­25). And rather than 'a possible way of abbreviating "Acts" that turned out to be pointless because it saved no space' (p. 167) 'A&s' is surely no more than a confusion with a 'ct' ligature. But none of these is ultimately of much consequence in establishing the text.

B. J. McMullin