fol. S5v, 2 Samuel
The Most Sacred Bible. Newly recognised by Richard Taverner. London: John Bydell for Thomas Barthlet, 1539.
Folio. 517 leaves (, ccxxx; lxxxxi; lxxv,  blank; c1, ), 11 x 7½ inches. Black letter, double column, 68 lines. Contemporary brown sheepskin, brass over leather; lacking clasps; new spine of dark brown morocco gilt. General title leaf and 8 leaves following, New Testament title leaf and last 9 leaves in facsimile; lacking several leaves, replaced with blank leaves. § DMH 45; STC (2nd ed.) 2067. § CD-ROM: 8.5, fol. B2v (detail); 8.5, fol. B4r (detail); 8.5, fol. C1r (detail); 8.5, fol. C2vC3r; 8.5, fol. C2v (detail); 8.5, fol. C3r (detail).
Like the Great Bible [8.6], Taverners is a revision of Matthews Bible of 1537 though much less thorough. In the Old Testament he apparently used no help other than the Vulgate and then only partially. Yet he made changes for the sake of clarity and force. Indeed, vividness and conciseness are the hallmarks of his translation as seen in his substituting Saxon words for Latin ones, even coining new words such as "spokesman" for parakléton ("advocate"), and "mercystocke" for hilasmos ("propitiation"), in 1 John 2:12. Other examples of his style (compared to Matthews) include "the fragmentes" for "broken meate" (Matthew 15:37), "commytteth aduoutry" for "breaketh wedlocke" (Matthew 19:9), and "Ye have a watche" instead of "take watch men" (Matthew 27:65). Some of his changes, for example his use of the word "parable" (in place of "similitude") and "express image" (Hebrews 1:3), were adopted by later versions. However, Taverner did not consistently replace "similitude" with "parable" (see Mark 3:23 and 4:3334 for "similitude" and Mark 4:2 and 1011 for "parable").
A layman and a lawyer by profession, Richard Taverner (1501?75) enjoyed a great reputation as a Greek scholar. It is said that when he was a law student in London "his humour was to quote the law in Greek when he read anything thereof." In his youth at Christ Church, Oxford, he got into trouble for reading Tyndales New Testament which was being circulated and promoted there by Thomas Garret. In February 1528 Cardinal Wolsey (ca. 14751530) sought to apprehend Garret, but he escaped temporarily with the help of his friend Anthony Dalaber. When he was brought back to Oxford Garret and Dalaber participated in a public act of penance along with Taverner and others who would play a significant part in the coming struggle of the Reformation. One part of their punishment was to throw a book into the fire. Later, under Cromwells direction, Taverner became actively engaged in producing works designed to encourage the Reformation in England. This activity included the publishing of books: his version of the Bible in 1539 and a commentary published in 1540 with Henry VIIIs approval.
Cromwells fall in 1540 stopped Taverners literary output and endangered his position. On 2 December 1541 he was sent to the Tower of London by Henry VIII, but he was soon released; he submitted to the King and was restored to royal favor. Under Edward VI, when preachers were scarce, Taverner obtained a license as a lay preacher. Though an ardent supporter of the Reformation, Taverner seemed to shield himself from possible martyrdom. When Mary came to the throne he welcomed her with "An Oration Gratulatory." Losing his position at court, he quietly disappeared from public life during her reign. Upon the accession of Elizabeth I he addressed a congratulatory epistle to her, refused a knighthood she offered him, and preached regularly at St. Marys, Oxford.
The first edition of the Great Bible appeared in the same year as Taverners, overshadowing it and diminishing its sales. In addition to this 1539 folio on display, a quarto and octavo edition also were published in 1539. A decade later his translation was issued by John Day and William Seres in five duodecimo volumes for the convenience of those who could not afford to purchase a whole Bible at one time.
Some of the notes in the Taverner Bible are reproduced word for word from those of the Matthews Bible of 1537 which in turn were borrowed from the French versions of Lefèvre (1534) and Olivétan (1535) [6.4]. But many, many notes are entirely omitted, especially after the Gospels. For example, Galatians in the Matthews Bible has twenty three explanatory notes, while Taverners has only eleven. Perhaps this indicates that notes were not yet considered so important. Or perhaps Taverner considered it a prudent life insurance policy!
The copy on display lacks 46 pages of the biblical text (including signature K) plus much of the preliminary material, some of which has been supplied in facsimile. The first edition of this Bible in any condition, however, is quite rare.
Literature: Dictionary of National Biography 19:39396; MacGregor 1968; Westcott 1916.