Monday, December 11, 2023

Translator's Notes - A Cautionary Tale

Thanks very much to Timothy Berg for his article, "A Newly Digitized Bible Reveals the Origins of the King James Version" (and thanks also to Nick Sayers for his video related thereto).  Most of all thanks to the Bodleian Library and UPenn who have digitized and made freely available to the public, a rare example of notes from the King James Version translators.  These notes are handwritten in a printed Bishop's Bible.

I was simultaneously pleased and annoyed by the announcement.  After all, I had managed to acquire the study by Ward S. Allen and Edward C. Jacobs, "The Coming of the King James Gospels" (1995), which was based the notes from this document.  Until this digitization, Allen's book was the most practical way to have access to the notes.  I was pleased because Allen's book contains few facsimile renderings of the text.  The majority of Allen's book is as shown below (this is not the section where I noticed the error):

The annoyance was not at the seeming waste of money for something now freely available (after all, Allen and Jacobs go beyond a mere transcription, and offer comments and analysis of the notes).  Instead my annoyance is that in the first place I looked (related to a project I have been working on for some months), Allen and Jacobs' notes show a change that is not there.

I have no explanation for Allen and Jacob's error.  At first I hoped that this was a second copy of the translators' notes, for indeed the shelf mark was different.  A further investigation, however, revealed that the shelf mark has been updated, but the document is the same.

I cannot understand why A&J would deliberately mislead the reader.  My guess is that they took handwritten notes of the differences between the KJV and the Bishop's Bible, and somehow conflated their own notes of the differences with the document itself, in at least the one place I checked.

Moreover, it seems that their error misled at least one researcher between 1995 and now (not counting myself).  God willing, more on the actual point in question in some future post.

A&J's book was subtitled: "A Collation of the Transaltors' Work-in-Progress."  Let this serve as a warning regarding getting information via collation, rather than first hand.

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