There is a device which stores information on a numbered sequence of pages, no wires or batteries are needed and so simple to use that even a child can operate it. It works by optically scanning the information and transferring it directly to the brain. For any of you still in the dark the acronym of this major technological breakthrough a bio-optic organised knowledge device is BOOK.
It is a brilliant invention and one sign of that is the fact that the basic design has altered very little over several hundred years. Books sold in Tyndale’s time are very similar to those sold today which is truly astonishing when you consider how much most other consumer durables have changed in production and design. Some readers will, no doubt, quibble that marginal notes have been replaced by footnotes – set up in a flash by sophisticated computer programmes. Indexing, by the same virtue, has improved beyond measure and dust jackets have been added. The latter is possibly a retrograde step as the art of binding and embellishing a book cover has been abandoned. However, the loss of a book in a suitcase on a flight through Heathrow is not the drama it would have been when lost in a 16th century shipwreck. Mass production is so easy – take the print run of Harry Potter compared with that of the Bible produced by Rowland Hall in Geneva in 1560.
However, there is one major difference between the book trade in the 16th century and nowadays and that lies in the area of organisation. In Tyndale’s time printing was a highly risky business – financially and in terms of personal safety. One has only to look at the close shave endured in the workshop of the Cologne printer, Peter Quennell, as Tyndale dramatically fled from the premises with the pages of his newly printed Bible. Printers were imprisoned, fined and even killed for choosing the wrong type of publication. An Antwerp printer, Christopher Endhoven, who specialised in printing Bibles and liturgical works, ended up in an English jail where sadly he died. His widow, Catherine, successfully and astutely managed to channel the business into more profitable and less controversial projects. On the other hand, another Antwerp inhabitant, Christopher Plantin, became highly successful, He was, in effect, a commissioner of works, printer, translator, illustrator, publisher and bookseller all under one roof. Luck, business acumen and a wise choice of friends had a lot to do with the success of a printing concern in those days. To a certain extent these same criteria apply today but the wrong choice of copy does not usually provoke a prison sentence or worse.
In England the Worshipful Company of Stationers, who this year are celebrating their 450th Anniversary, succeeded to a large extent in regularising the trade. The Company was founded in 1403 with the aim of controlling the activities of text writers, bookbinders, illuminators and booksellers who operated from workplaces (stationarius) round the walls of St Paul’s Cathedral. Over the years and with the invention of printing this City of London Livery Company, whose official status was ratified by a charter from Queen Mary in 1557, became a very powerful force indeed – possibly too powerful. For instance, it controlled copyright – not a bad thing at first. But in the eyes of some a source of difficulties later on. John Bodley, the driving force behind the production of the Geneva Bible, received its copyright from the Stationers’ Company in 1561 and, as we all know, it was one of, if not the most successful Bibles ever. The Geneva Bible was in the hands of those founding families when they landed to start a colony in Jamestown, Virginia in 1607 – exactly 400 years ago. John Bodley and his Geneva publisher, Rowland Hall, lived in London on their return from exile in Geneva in 1560 but it seems that Bodley did not exercise his copyright in spite of it being renewed in 1568 (it was never ratified according to the Stationers’ Company records).
Members of the Tyndale Society can be further enlightened this autumn on these subjects by Prof. Andrew Pettegree when he gives the 450th Anniversary Lecture at Stationers’ Hall entitled ‘The Stationers’ Company and the Development of the English Printing Industry’ on 18 October.
This issue of the Journal is very much concerned with the printed word and the fate of those who died upholding their beliefs which they had committed to print. At the Worcester Conference ‘Tasting the Word of God’ much time was devoted to the life and works of Bishops Latimer and Hooper who were both martyred for their adherence to Protestant beliefs. Unfortunately, for reasons outside our control, we have only been able to publish one of the excellent papers given on that occasion but Eunice Burton has written a full and excellent report on the whole event.
The Battle for the Bible was depicted most forcefully in a film shown on BBC4 this past Easter. Members will have a further chance to see it in a barn in Wendover, Buckinghamshire this September. In this issue you can also read Rod Liddle’s article about this programme to which some of our Tyndale officers notably Prof. David Daniell, Dr Guido Latré and the late Sir Rowland Whitehead contributed; the Tyndale Bible shone through with flying colours. Dr Randall Pannell in the lead article comments on the translation by Tyndale of an Old Testament Prophetic Book, Jonah. If your interest in Bibles is not satiated by all this then read the review by Bill Cooper of Laurence Vance’s recent book entitled ‘King James, His Bible and its Translators’.
The Mercers’ Company, a City of London Livery Company like the Stationers’, featured prominently in our London Study Day in April. Eunice Burton has contributed a detailed report of this event, which was so ably led by Brian Buxton. Her report skilfully incorporated the notes from Brian’s excellent handout prepared especially for the event. Eunice has also summarised the talk ‘Tudor Protestantism and the Use of the Vernacular’ given that evening by Dr Felicity Heal which unfortunately could not be printed here for copyright reasons.”
“Our book reviewers have worked hard on a variety of subjects from psalters and books of hours through bible translation and from a continental reformer, Sebastian Castellio to a study on William Cecil and Episcopacy. There are thoughts and comments by Brian Buxton on the Holbein exhibition and a short piece on Sacred, the British Library’s very successful current exhibition on the Abrahamic faiths. Neither is the continent of Europe neglected with short articles in Press Gleanings on the Reformation Museum in Geneva and its recent acquisition of a rare document about Calvin.”
“A glance at Dates for Your Diary makes one realise that many people put in long hours of work to keep the Society vibrant. In addition to our now customary and prestigious Lambeth and Hertford Lectures and the Annual Carol Service at St Mary Abchurch there are conferences and events planned through to 2009. We owe a debt of thanks to our energetic chairman, Mary Clow, for most of these new initiatives.”
“This issue has seen Eunice Burton’s reporting duties go into overdrive. We are immensely grateful to her for all this behind the scenes work and not forgetting the fortune she has spent on feather quills and sheaves of paper! Brian Buxton is fast becoming the expert on 16th century London merchants and we always benefit from the fruits of his ongoing research. His recent discovery of the entry in their archives of the account of Robert Packington’s death by shotgun proved exciting.”
“I am enormously grateful to Judith Munzinger for her persistence, despite numerous peregrinations, in eliminating the Oxford comma and rogue italics from this issue. Angela Butler, my Press Gleanings synthesizer, has decided, frustrated at not being able to carry out research on the net, that she needs to change, at least, her software and possibly her computer!”
“So please, dear readers, come to as many events as you can. Encourage your friends to join the Society, contribute articles and book reviews, solicit adverts to boost our income so that the Journal does not have to diminish in size or compromise its standards. Moreover, alert the editor to all events even remotely associated with Tyndalian thoughts and ideas.”
“May your book contracts prosper and your copyrights remain intact.”