We dashed with decorous determination through a Cotswold country church pursued by a dogged churchwarden trying to distract us with the many undoubted historical attractions of the ancient building. Undeflected we triumphantly reached our quarry – the Bartholomew aisle known in Reformation times as the Holy Trinity Chapel. There on the east wall, where the altar used to be, was a barely readable inscription in a 16th century hand.
The churchwarden beamed – these were clearly goal-orientated and discerning visitors: with resigned interest, granddaughter no 1 sought confirmation that these were indeed the words of the man whose statue we had virtually bumped into on our previous outing together in London. I reflected that perhaps the said statue incident had not been a total accident and that my passion for Tyndale and all things Tyndalian now really was teetering on the verge of obsession. But here indeed, on a wall of Burford Parish Church in Oxfordshire, was a Biblical quotation in William Tyndale’s masterly English. The cheerful churchwarden, his breath fully recovered, explained that at the Reformation the altar in the Holy Trinity Chapel in the south chancel aisle was dismantled and the wall, where the reredos once stood, plastered over. A little later the empty space below the window was filled by a challenging passage from St Paul’s Epistle to the Romans (chapter 13 vv 12-14) beginning `The nyght is passed and the daye is come nye. Let us therefore cast awaie the dedes of darkness, and let us put on the armour of lyght`.
Local explanation as to why this particular quotation from Tyndale’s Bible was used is quite convincing. The Reformation and Lollard movement were strong in this town situated as it is between the Gloucestershire of William Tyndale and the Oxford base of William Wycliffe. For instance, in 1521 twelve local men and nine women were convicted of heresy for reading the Bible together without permission. It was natural then to have a Biblical quotation in English and the particular passage chosen rings with a sense of a new beginning. A new beginning for the chapel, where masses for the dead were no longer allowed but where the townsfolk of Burford would find an upbeat passage from the Bible in the vernacular on the wall of their parish church.
For those of you already reaching for the car keys or the train timetable it has to be said that an experienced eye, a helpful churchwarden, a helpful angle of the sun’s rays and a good crib are necessary to decipher the faded inscription. Restoration was decided against on the grounds that it was expensive, that it would make the writing look as if it had been done yesterday and, mysteriously, that the preferred restorer became pregnant every time she came near it and had more than once to postpone the work. I tactfully refrained from further inquiry!
This particular issue of the Journal is also largely devoted to these new beginnings of vernacular Bibles – their translation, their format, their illustration and their fortunes. We are very privileged that Prof. David Daniell has allowed us to publish his fascinating lecture given at St Paul’s Cathedral entitled ‘The Making of The Bible in English’. This event preceded the official launch of his latest book The Bible in English by Yale University Press in June at Lambeth Palace. Lambeth’s librarian, Christina Mackwell, mounted an excellent exhibition in conjunction with the launch and, in view of the fact that not all our members were able to attend the event, we have published the catalogue in full rather than attempt to give a report which would certainly not do justice to her efforts.
William Cooper was prompted to submit his paper on ‘John Trevisa, the Translator of Wycliffe B’ as interest in Wycliffe is growing apace and he thought that readers would like to learn more fully the evidence for Trevisa’s possible authorship. It is a useful follow up to Ralph Werrell’s article published in the Tyndale Society Journal No 24 April 2003.
The theme of Bibles and Bible translation constitute the subject of the reports of papers from the Antwerp Conference. The synopsis of Jean-Francois Gilmont`s paper on the French Bibles of Jacques Lefèvre and Martin Lempereur enables us to consider developments on the continent of Europe. Kaoru Yamakazi’s reflections and juxtaposing of Reformation Bibles and the Personal Computer drag us out of our 16th century mindsets!
The return of the Inglis book review slot will be welcomed in all quarters. He considers, with his usual quirky originality, the latest book on Michel Servet Out of the Flames by Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone. Reading the review on Registers of the Consistory of Geneva should enable those of you not so familiar with Geneva and the world of Calvin to understand the Press Gleanings on the Auction of Calvin Manuscripts. Scouring the press for interesting information is most enjoyable but writing up these gleanings does take time. If there is someone out there with a similar penchant for turning anything they read into an article with Tyndalian connotations for the Journal please let me know.
The Ploughboys have gone a little quiet this time. Rather than organizing events and lectures they appear to be exercising their pens/computers. David Green amassed some interesting copy on Compton Abdale and Vic Perry teases us with thoughts on the translation of John 1 in ‘Those Thats’. My postbag is now filled with articles rather than letters. However, I am not complaining – keep them coming and apologies if there is a time lag in replying.
Registrations for the Third Tyndale Conference Geneva ‘Not for Burning: The Marian Exiles in 16th century Europe’ are going well. This is no surprise considering the quality of speakers and their choice of subjects. Other attractions are: the visit to the Bodmer Institute, a privileged preview as this world renowned manuscript collection with rare Reformation documents is opening its doors especially for us after a three years’ closure for complete renovation of its premises; a live musical lecture on the 16th century music of the Marian exiles and signings by Prof. David Daniell. Details of the whole weekend are to be found in this issue and if you have not yet signed up there is just time to do so. It promises to be a Conference not to miss.
Society Notes will give you an insight to long-term plans and important news. The chairman of the Publications Committee has written a short report on this new venture. Precise details of upcoming events are contained in Dates for Your Diary.
As always I extend grateful thanks to all the contributors to this issue. I sincerely hope my obsessional phase has not yet begun, but I confess that my attention was drawn to the open Tyndale New Testament in Ewelme Church, Oxfordshire but I failed to notice the fan vaulting on the tomb of Alice, Duchess of Suffolk and now remember only that the vicar was clearly a fan of Tyndale. It does not bode well!