fol. Hh5v, Song of Solomon
New Testament title page
THE MATTHEWS BIBLE
The Byble, which is all the holy Scripture: In whych are contayned the Olde and Newe Testament truly and purely translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew. 4 pts. [Antwerp?: Matthew Crom for Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch of London], 1537.
Folio. 556 leaves (, ccxlvii, , xciiii, lxxxi,  blank, cxi, ), 13½ x 9 inches. Bold black letter, some printing in red, double column, 60 lines, with catchwords. Titles within woodcut border, 119 woodcut illustrations and woodcut initials; 1 full-page woodcut of Adam and Eve in Eden. Printed references, sectional marks, and numerous notes in margins. Extensive genealogical notes, early 17th century, of the Walford family, mostly mounted. Contemporary brown English calfskin over wooden boards, blind-rolled border forming central panel; 10 bosses, clasps on upper cover, catchplates on lower cover; new spine. Lacking several leaves. § DMH 34; STC (2nd ed.) 2066. § CD-ROM: 8.3, fol. Cc1r (detail), David and Uriah; 8.3, fol. O1r (detail), Revelation 12; 8.3, fol. O1v (detail), Revelation 13; 8.3, fol. O3r (detail), Revelation 20.
This is the first English Bible that was distributed under a "royal license." The Thomas Matthew mentioned on the title page as the translator is a pseudonym. It is from that ruse that this important edition, the second appearance of a complete Bible in English, is called the "Matthews Bible." Most of the text is by William Tyndale. This includes his New Testament (in the G. H. version) and his Pentateuch; this is, moreover, the first edition of his translations of Joshua through Chronicles. Coverdales translation is used for Ezra through the Apocrypha, except that the Prayer of Manasses is the work of John Rogers (150055). Rogers, who was a close associate of Tyndale and who would also become a martyr to the cause, is thought to have put together this edition; it is probably to him, that we owe the survival of Tyndales translations of Joshua through Chronicles.
The "Matthews Bible" is illustrated throughout. In addition to woodcut title pages for the Old and New Testaments and a full-page woodcut of the expulsion from Eden, the imprint has 119 illustrations in the text (from forty-four blocks). The title page for the New Testament ("The Newe Testament of oure Sauyour") depicts the Lutheran concept of the Law and the Gospel, an issue that Luther discussed in many places, perhaps most prominently in the preface to his Septembertestament (1522). Lucas Cranach the Elder adapted this concept into a popular form of Lutheran iconography, which was used in both painting and, with remarkable frequency, in complex woodcuts. Briefly put, the doctrine holds that the laws of the Bible are replaced by the promise of redemption in Christ. Consequently, adherence to laws does not ensure salvation; salvation is attained through faith alone, a free gift from God. In the image, concepts of "law" are associated with damnation, while belief in Christ, as conveyed by the Word of God, is depicted as the way to salvation. The iconographic scheme of the Law and the Gospel was also used for the title page of the Coverdale Bible [see 8.1].
Literature: Bruce 1978, 2453, 6466; Daniell 1994, 33357; Hotchkiss and Price 1996, 14243; Ohly 1985; Scribner 1994, 16163.