fol. A1r, St. Jerome
The New Testame[n]t both in latin and english after the vulgare texte: whych is red in the churche. Translated and corrected by Miles Coverdale 1539. [Paris]: Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch.
Octavo, 282 leaves (, cclxxiii, [2), 5⅞ x 4⅛ inches. Latin in roman; English in black letter. Title page in red and black. Bound in brown calfskin; black morocco spine label. This is the Cotton copy. § DMH 37, 38, 39; STC (2nd ed.) 2818.5. § CD-ROM: 8.4, title page; 8.4, fol. V8v–X1r.
Miles Coverdale had a great love of the Latin Vulgate, and decided to prepare a diglot of the Vulgate text with a revised English translation. His chief problem in this editorial task was to reconcile the English of his own 1535 edition (based largely on the Greek by way of Luther’s German) with the English resulting from a translation of the Vulgate. For his goal, it seems, was not to challenge the Vulgate, but rather to show its similarities with his English rendering.
It appears that Coverdale left his completed work in the hands of James Nicolson while he went to Paris to see to the editing and printing of the Great Bible. When he received a printed copy of his Diglot he was horrified by the mistakes in printing and he determined to prepare a corrected edition.
In the meantime, Nicolson forged ahead and printed another edition, this time correcting some errors, but inserting new ones. He deleted Coverdale’s name and inserted the name of John Hollybushe as translator and editor.
This is one of two known copies of the 1539 edition. Examination suggests that this volume is a combination of a newly printed and dated title page which was then placed on the 1538 Grafton and Whitchurch printing. Aside from the first leaf, the collation recorded for DMH 39 is exactly the same, even having the woodcut of St. Jerome before the opening of the Gospel of Matthew.
In his book Coverdale and his Bibles J. F. Mozley assessed the Coverdale Diglot editions succinctly: "The history of these volumes is very singular and not a little obscure." The Mozleyan sense of obscurity would be greatly enhanced if he had encountered this volume.
[Let me seek the protection of brackets—so that I can suggest the real background of this edition: one night after the boss went home, two apprentices set a new title page, printed a couple of copies, and substituted them for the title leaf of the 1538 which the firm was just finishing. With great glee they projected that someday the results would give headaches to all bibliographers.]
Although a 1539 edition does not appear in any of the standard bibliographies, Mr. Page A. Thomas of Bridwell Library shared with me the discovery of a 1539 Coverdale Diglot noted in Cotton’s 1821 list of English Bibles (p. 6). According to the bibliographer Henry Wolfe, this is the Ryrie copy. A second copy exists at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. Only these two copies seem to have survived, although there is a suspicion of a third copy which was once recorded in the Duke of Sussex’s library but has since vanished.
Mozley’s conclusion to the whole thing (even without the mystery of this copy) sums it all up: "Such then is the Coverdale diglot, a useful book for the time but nothing more, a work that perhaps gave the translator more trouble than it was worth."
Literature: Mozley 1953; Wolfe 1965.