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Foxe's Book of Martyrs -- 196. THE ENGLISH BIBLE.



Of the Bible in English, printed in the large volume; and of Edmund Bonner, preferred to the bishopric of London by means of the Lord Cromwell.

BOUT the time and year when Edmund Bonner, bishop of Hereford, and ambassador resident in France, began first to be nominated and preferred, by means of the Lord Cromwell, to the bishopric of London, which was A.D. 1540, it happened that the said Thomas Lord Cromwell, earl of Essex, procured of the king of England his gracious letters to the French king, to permit and license a subject of his to imprint the Bible in English within the university of Paris; because paper was there more meet and apt to be had for the doing thereof, than in the realm of England, and also that there were more store of good workmen for the ready despatch of the same. And in like manner, at the same time the said king wrote unto his ambassador, who then was Edmund Bonner, bishop of Hereford, lying in Paris, that he should aid and assist the doers thereof in all their reasonable suits: the which bishop, outwardly, showed great friendship to the merchants that were the imprinters of the same; and, moreover, did divers and sundry times call and command the said persons to be in a manner daily at his table, both dinner and supper; and so much rejoiced in the workmanship of the said Bible, that he himself would visit the imprinter's house, where the same Bibles were printed, and also would take part of such dinners as the Englishmen there had, and that to his cost, which, as it seemed, he little weighed. And further, the said Bonner was so fervent, that he caused the said Englishmen to put in print a New Testament in English and Latin, and himself took a great many of them, and paid for them, and gave them to his friends. And it chanced in the mean time, while the said Bible was in printing, that King Henry the Eighth preferred the said Bonner from the bishopric of Hereford, to be bishop of London; at which time the said Bonner, according to the statute law of England, took his oath to the king, acknowledging his supremacy, and called one of the aforesaid Englishmen that printed the Bible, whom he then loved, although afterwards, upon the change of the world, he did hate him as much, whose name was Richard Grafton; to whom the said Bonner said, when he took his oath, "Master Grafton, so it is, that the king's most excellent Majesty hath, by his gracious gift, presented me to the bishopric of London; for the which I am sorry, for, if it would have pleased his Grace, I could have been well content to have kept mine old bishopric of Hereford." Then said Grafton, "I am right glad to hear of it, and so I am sure will be a great number of the city of London; for though they yet know you not, yet they hate heard so much goodness of you from hence, as no doubt they will heartily rejoice of your placing." Then said Bonner, "I pray God I may do what may content them. And to tell you, Master Grafton, before God, (for that was commonly his oath,) the greatest fault that ever I found in Stokesley was, for vexing and troubling of poor men, as Lobley the bookbinder, and others, for having the Scripture in English; and, God willing, he did not so much hinder it, but I will as much further it; and I will have of your Bibles set up in the church of Paul's, at least in sundry places six of them; and I will pay you honestly for them, and give hearty thanks." Which words he then spake in the hearing of divers credible persons, as Edmund Stile, grocer, and others. "But now, Master Grafton, at this time I have specially called you to be a witness with me, that upon this translation of bishops' sees, I must, according to the statute, take an oath unto the king's Majesty, acknowledging his supremacy, which, before God, I take with my heart, and so think him to be; and beseech Almighty God to save him, and long to prosper his Grace" "Hold the book, sirrah! and read you the oath," said he to one of his chaplains; and he laid his hand on the book, and so he took his oath: and after this he showed great friendship to the said Grafton, and to his partner Edward Whitchurch; but especially to Miles Coverdale, who was the corrector of the great Bible.

Illustration -- Hereford Cathedral

            Now after that the aforesaid letters were delivered, the French king gave very good words, and was well contented to permit the doing thereof; and so the printer went forward, and printed forth the book, even to the last part; and then was the quarrel picked with the printer, and he was sent for to the inquisitors of the faith, and there charged with certain articles of heresy. Then were sent for the Englishmen that were at the cost and charge thereof, and also such as had the correction of the same, which was Miles Coverdale: but having some warning what would follow, the said Englishmen posted away as fast as they could, to save themselves, leaving behind them all their Bibles, which were to the number of two thousand five hundred, (called the Bible of the great Volume,) and never recovered any of them, saving that the lieutenant-criminal, having them delivered unto him to burn in a place of Paris, (like Smithfield,) called Maulbert Place, was somewhat moved with covetousness, and sold four great dry-fats of them to a haberdasher, to lap caps in, and those were bought again; but the rest were burned, to the great and importunate loss of those that bare the charge of them. But notwithstanding the said loss, after they had recovered some part of the aforesaid books, and were comforted and encouraged by the Lord Cromwell, the said Englishmen went again to Paris, and there got the presses, letters, and servants of the aforesaid printer, and brought them to London; and there they became printers themselves, (which before they never intended,) and printed out the said Bible in London, and, after that, printed sundry impressions of them: but yet not without great trouble and loss, for the hatred of the bishops, namely, Stephen Gardiner and his fellows, who mightily did stomach and malign the printing thereof.

            Here, by the way, for the more direction to the story, thou hast, loving reader, to note and understand, that in those days there were two sundry Bibles in English, printed and set forth, bearing divers titles, and printed in divers places: the first was called Thomas Matthewe's Bible, printed at Hamburgh, about A.D. 1537; the corrector of which print was then John Rogers, of whom ye shall hear more, Christ willing, hereafter. The printers were Richard Grafton, and Whitchurch. In the translation of this Bible, the greatest doer was indeed William Tyndale, who, with the help of Miles Coverdale, had translated all the books thereof, except only the Apocrypha, and certain notes in the margin, which were added after. But, because the said William Tyndale, in the mean time, was apprehended, before this Bible was fully perfected, it was thought good to them that had the doing thereof, to change the name of William Tyndale, because that name then was odious, and to father it by a strange name of Thomas Matthewe; John Rogers, at the same time, being corrector to the print, who had then translated the residue of the Apocrypha, and added also certain notes thereto in the margin: and thereof came it to be called Thomas Matthewe's Bible. Which Bible of Thomas Matthewe, after it was imprinted and presented to the Lord Cromwell, and to the Lord Cranmer, archbishop of Canterbury, who liked very well of it, the said Cromwell presented it to the king, and obtained that the same might freely pass to be read of his subjects with his Grace's licence: so that there was printed upon the same book, one line in red letters, with these words, "Set forth with the king's most gracious licence."

            The setting forth of this book did not a little offend the clergy, namely, the bishops aforesaid, both for the prologues, and, especially, because in the same book was one special table collected of the common places in the Bible, and the Scriptures for the approbation of the same; and chiefly about the supper of the Lord, and marriage of priests, and the mass, which there was said not to be found in the Scripture.

            Furthermore, after the restraint of this aforesaid Bible of Thomas Matthewe, another Bible began to be printed at Paris, A.D. 1540; which was called the Bible of the large Volume. The printers thereof were the aforesaid Richard Grafton, and Whitchurch, who bare the charges. A great helper thereto, was the Lord Cromwell. The chiefest overseer was Miles Coverdale, who, taking the translation of Tyndale, conferred the same with the Hebrew, and amended many things.


The king's brief, for setting up the Bible of the Greater Volume in English.

            "Henry, by the grace of God, king of England and of France, defender of the faith, lord of Ireland, and, in earth, supreme head of the church of England; to the reverend father in Christ, Edmund, bishop of London, or, in his absence, to his vicar-general, health.

            "We command you, that immediately upon the receipt of these presents, in every cathedral, collegiate, and other parish churches and chapels, you cause, on our behalf, to be solemnly published and read, a certain decree made by us, by the advice of our council, which we have sent you by the bringer, imprinted in certain schedules annexed to this brief: charging you moreover, that immediately upon the publishing of the said decree so by you made, you cause the said decree to be set up upon every church door through your diocese, that it may more largely appear unto our subjects and liege people; and that with all diligence you perform the same, as you will answer us for the contrary.

            "Witness myself, at Westminster, the seventh day of May, in the thirty-second year of our reign."

            In this Bible, although the former notes of Thomas Matthewe were omitted, yet sundry marks and hands were annexed on the sides, which meant that in those places should he made certain notes, wherewith also the clergy were offended, though the notes were not made.

            After this the bishops, bringing their purpose to pass, brought the Lord Cromwell out of favour, and shortly to his death; and, not long after, great complaint was made to the king of the translation of the Bible, and of the preface of the same; and then was the sale of the Bible commanded to be stayed, the bishops promising to amend and correct it, but never performing the same. Then Grafton was called, and first charged with the printing of Matthewe's Bible, but he, being fearful of trouble, made excuses for himself in all things. Then was he examined of the great Bible, and what notes he was purposed to make: to which he answered, that he knew none. For his purpose was, to have retained learned men to have made the notes; but when he perceived the king's Majesty and his clergy not willing to have any, he proceeded no further. But for all these excuses, Grafton was sent to the Fleet, and there remained six weeks, and before he came out, was bound, in three hundred pounds, that he should neither sell, nor imprint, nor cause to be imprinted, any more Bibles, until the king and the clergy should agree upon a translation. And thus was the Bible from that time stayed, during the reign of King Henry the Eighth.

            But yet one thing more is to be noted, that after the imprinters had lost their Bibles, they continued suitors to Bonner, as is aforesaid, to be a mean to obtain of the French king their books again: but so long they continued suitors, and Bonner ever fed them with fair words, promising them much, but did nothing for them, till, at last, Bonner was discharged of his ambassade, and returned home, where he was right joyfully welcomed home by the Lord Cromwell, who loved him dearly, and had a marvellous good opinion of him. , And so long as Cromwell remained in authority, so long was Bonner at his beck, and friend to his friends, and enemy to his enemies; as namely, at that time to Gardiner, bishop of Winchester, who never favoured Cromwell, and therefore Bonner could not favour him, but he and Winchester were the greatest enemies that might be. But, so soon as Cromwell fell, immediately Bonner and Winchester pretended to be the greatest men that lived; and no good word could Bonner speak of Cromwell, but the lewdest, vilest, and bitterest that he could speak, calling him the rankest heretic that ever lived. And then, such as the said Bonner knew to be in good favour with Cromwell, he could never abide their sight: insomuch that the next day after that Cromwell was apprehended, the above-named Grafton, who before had been very familiar with Bonner, met with the said Bonner suddenly, and said unto him, that he was sorry to hear of the news that then were abroad. "What are they?" said he. "Of the apprehension of the Lord Cromwell," said Grafton. "Are ye sorry for that?" said he. "It had been good that he had been despatched long ago." With that Grafton looked upon him, and knew not what to say, but came no more to Bonner. Howbeit afterwards, the said Grafton, being charged for the imprinting of a ballad made in favour of Cromwell, was called before the council, where Bonner was present; and there Bonner charged him with the words that he spake to him of Cromwell, and told out a great long tale. But the Lord Audley, who then was lord chancellor, right discreetly and honourably cut off the matter, and entered into other talk.


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