The Tudor Society

The Coverdale Bible

On this day in history, 6th May 1541, Henry VIII issued an injunction ordering "the Byble of the largest and greatest volume, to be had in every churche".

Here is the injunction:

"Proclamation confirming injunctions heretofore set forth by Royal authority for curates and parishioners to provide, “by a day now expired,” and set up in every church, Bibles containing the Old and New Testament in English. By these injunctions the King intended his subjects to read the Bibles for their instruction humbly and reverently; not reading aloud in time of Holy Mass or other divine service, nor, being laymen, arguing thereupon. Many towns and parishes having failed to accomplish this, they are straitly commanded, before All Saints Day next, to provide and set up Bibles of the largest volume, upon penalty of 40s. for every month's delay after All Saints Day, half to go to the informer. The sellers of such Bibles are taxed to charge for them not above 10s. for Bibles unbound or 12s. for Bibles well bound and clasped. Ordinaries having ecclesiastical jurisdiction are to see to this.

From Bonner's register. Headed: “A proclamation ordained by the King's Majesty, with the advice of his honorable Council, for the Bible of the largest and greatest volume to be had in every church, devised the sixth day of May the xxxiij. year of the King's most gracious reign." (Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, Henry VIII, Volume 16, 1540-1541, 803.)

The Bible referred to was "The Great Bible" or "Coverdale Bible", the first authorised Bible in English. It had been prepared by Miles Coverdale and was based on William Tyndale's New Testament and Pentateuch, and then Coverdale's own translations of the other books of the Bible.

You can read the Coverdale Bible at the following links:

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