Friday, May 15, 2020

Cromwell's Bible

There is nothing better for social distancing then a really good book. If you are like a lot of us, you are knee deep in Hilary Mantel's final installment of the Wolf Hall series, The Mirror & the Light. It lives up to the previous two novels in the series following Thomas Cromwell's rise and fall in the court of Henry VIII.

Throughout the third novel, Cromwell is overseeing the production of what came to be know as The Great Bible--a full English translation fit for the evolving Church of England. The book was being printed in Paris because they wanted the best quality work Europe had to offer, but political difficulties kept rearing up (a Protestant bible in France... not cool with the Inquisition). When it was nearly finished, Cromwell had all of the type and printed sheets brought to England to complete the printing.

Our copy is particularly nice because when it was bound someone put "Lord Crumwel" on the spine--you get the feeling, based on the various pronunciations of Cromwell's name in Wolf Hall, that it was a native French speaker--though I doubt it was a member of the Boleyn family!

The title page, probably designed by Hans Holbein, is amazing. The word comes from God, but Henry doles it out to the people--on his right to the head of the church to distribute to the clergy, and on this left, to Cromwell to send out to the laity.

Cromwell didn't last much longer after the publication was finished, but the book is alive and well in our collections. To see it, ask for Rare BS155 1539.