Friday, August 12, 2022

Historic Editions of the English Bible Online

Some years ago, Peter Head put together a lovely list of historic editions of the Greek NT that are available free online. I have used that list more times than I can count. It’s wonderful to have them all in one place like that. 

Many times over the last year, I have found myself wanting a similar list but for early English Bibles. So that’s what I have given you here. It should be self-explanatory. The Bibles are listed chronologically and I have usually only included the most important edition(s) of each. If you know of better sources for some of these or see a correction needed, let me know in the comments.

Wycliffite Bible (14th c.)

First complete Bible in (middle) English.

  • Christ Church MS. 145 (14th c.): images and details; OT, NT, Apocryrpha
  • Egerton MS 617 (c. 1390-1397): images and details; Proverbs-Maccabbees; “the earliest datable copy of the complete Bible in English”
  • Egerton MS 618 (c. 1390-1397): images and details; Matthew-Revelation
  • Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal books, in the earliest English version etc., ed. J. Forshall and F. Madden (1850), vol. 1, vol. 2, vol. 3, vol. 4
  • Searchable version.

Luther (1522, 1534)

Not an English Bible, but included because it was used by many of the early English translators like Tyndale.

Tyndale (1525–1536)

  • 1525 NT: select images – not finished and only 8 sheets survive
  • 1526 NT: Full PDFselect images; only three copies exist, one at St. Paul’s in London which is missing 70 leaves, the one at the British Library, and one rediscovered only in 1996 at the Württemberg State Library (the only copy with an extant title page).
  • 1534 NT: PDF (b/w)text
  • 1534/1535 NT: his last revision, sometimes known as the “GH” edition; the basis for the “Matthew Bible”
  • Pentateuch (1530), Jonah (1536): text; b/w images
  • Searchable version

Coverdale (1535)

The first complete printed Bible in English; basis for the Matthew Bible where Tyndale wasn’t extant.

Matthew Bible (1537)

First complete English Bible licensed by the crown for sale in England; basis for the Great Bible and Taverner.

Great Bible (1539)

It was a BIG; basis for the Bishops’ Bible.
  • 1539: haven’t found one online
  • 1540: b/w PDF

Taverner’s Bible (1539)

Often neglected thanks, in part, to Westcott giving it short shrift.

Geneva (1557, 1560, etc.)

First English Bible with verse numbers, first to use italics to mark words not in the original, etc.
  • 1557 NT: 1 photo (only one I can find); Reprint
  • 1560 OT+NT: PDF (missing the note to the reader) color version on Google Books
  • 1570: A few color images
  • 1599: this has updated marginal notes which took a sharper Calvinist and anti-Catholic turn

Bishops’ (1568, 1602)

1602 was the basis for the KJV.

Douai-Rheims (1582, 1609/1610)

The first Roman Catholic translation in English, intended as a response to Protestant translations.

KJV (1611)

To quote Hixson (probably), “If it ain’t the King James, it ain’t the Bible.”

  • 1611: color images; “He Bible” (thought to be the earlier of the 1611 printings); slightly larger pictures here
  • 1611: “She Bible” (thought to be the later of the 1611 printings)
  • 1767 Blayney: PDF – Thorough update behind most modern printings
Two other sources you may want to check, if you have access, are the English Short Title Catalogue (or STC) and Early English Books Online.


  1. Alexander Thomson8/12/2022 11:28 am

    Thank you for this information! It will enable me to complete and check work on the English translation history of chosen texts. I echo what was said earlier : this sort of information couldn’t have been ascertained, at least by most of us, in the not too distant past!
    Thank you also for the link to Peter Head’s GNT list.

  2. "To quote Hixson (probably), 'If it ain’t the King James, it ain’t the Bible.'"

    Complete, Protestant English bibles...

    1. Coverdale
    2. Matthew Bible
    3. Great Bible
    4. Taverner’s Bible
    5. Geneva
    6. Bishops
    7. KJV

    There you go! 7 times purified!

    1. Ooops you forgot Tyndale's 1526, Becke's 1549 "wife beater bible", Roger's 1551 and Jugge's 1552

    2. Those don't count because they don't fit the narrative ;)

    3. Alexander Thomson8/12/2022 10:46 pm

      Surely, it’s not the Saga of the Seven, but the Tale of the Three?

      “… by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.”

      1. 1539 Coverdale’s Bible received Royal Assent - first authorised Bible

      2. 1568 Bishops’ Bible received Royal Assent - second authorised Bible

      3. 1611 Authorised Bible permitted, ordered, commissioned, financed
      by the King - third and *the* Authorised Version
      “Where the word of a king is, there is power;
      and who may say unto him,
      ‘ What doest thou’ ?”

    4. Alexander Thomson8/15/2022 9:30 pm

      Consider Titus 02:13, long -discussed text, whether “Jesus is God/god”.
      Before the supposed Granville Sharp rule swam into our ken, the translators of the three authorised versions (as well as other translators) had a definite view of the fact that the text speaks of two separate persons and not of one.

      1539 - Coverdale - “of the great God and of our saviour Jesus Christ”;
      1568 - Bishops’ - “of the great God, and our saviour Jesus Christ”;
      1611 - Authorised - “of the great God, and our saviour Jesus Christ”.

      The second “of” in 1539, and the comma in each of 1568 and 1611, show clearly two persons.

      Now consider 1769 - Blayney, !873 - Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible, 2005 - Norton’s New Cambridge Paragraph Bible; 2011 - Bible Society; 2012 Trinitarian Bible Society : all important editions of AV/KJV.
      Each presents the text thus : “..of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”. The absences of both the comma and of the second “of”, may be ambiguous; and, indeed, it was this aspect that led me, even as a lad, to examine this text, as well as 2 Peter 01:01 and Jude 01:04.

      Why did these important editions after 1611 not respect its Translators?

    5. Alexander Thomson8/16/2022 6:54 am

      I see that the link system brings up a text in only one translation! Mmm… Can it no be set to (say) the “multi” option of biblehub?

    6. Alexander Thomson8/19/2022 7:13 am

      Consider Titus 02:23, 02 Peter 01:01, Jude 01:04, in AV/KJV.

      Titus - “of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ”

      Peter - “of God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ’

      Jude - “the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ”

      Thus, the Translators clearly distinguished two persons in each of the three verses! Why, therefore, did subsequent editors from (Parris and?) Blayney to the present decide to misrepresent the Translators and to confuse the reader? What modern scribal factors - as serious as any in antiquity - are at play here?

  3. Peter

    I have the following complete color pdf Bibles if you are interested

    Wycliffe 1380 NT
    Coverdale 1535
    Matthew 1537 & 1549
    Taverners 1551
    Great 1541
    Roger's 1551
    Jugge's 1552 NT
    Bishop's 1568

    I have a few others but they are B/W

    1. Are you able to put them up on

  4. There is a facsimile of the 1525 Tyndale fragment, and CSNTM owns a copy. I have wanted to digitize our facsimile for a while. It might be old enough for us to be able to put the images of the facsimile online. I'll try to add that to my growing to-do list for the next time I am in the office.

    1. MIGHT be old enough? Who would own the copyright on an underground edition?

  5. That's interesting that you would include Luther as a source for the Protestant English Bibles. There was also an English translation of Beza's text IIRC--I'll have to check on that. But Luther interests me, because he included a Latin, rather than Greek, text in his Tobias translation. That leads me to suspect that he wasn't translating from Erasmus' Greek column, but the Latin (there are considerable textual differences in Tobias, most of the significant ones having to do with a dog). If the first Protestant English OT came from the Vulgate, that would account for Coverdale at least following the Latin text, but I haven't been able to identify when the shift happened to the Greek text behind the KJV.

    1. The Geneva (1560) is the first to translate the entire OT from Hebrew. Before that, Tyndale made it as far as 2 Chronicles but only his Pentateuch was published in his lifetime. Coverdale used his Pentateuch and Matthew used the rest of Tyndale’s OT. Luther used Erasmus’s Greek and I don’t know what you mean by Erasmus’s Latin of Tobit.

    2. I understand Tyndale also translated Jonah and published it in 1531.

  6. Christopher Yetzer8/17/2022 8:00 pm

    Here is the 1609 and 1610 Doway