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Bible Orthography

Many religious works are printed with numerous extracts from the Holy Scriptures without any reference to the Book, Chapter, or Verse, and as they are frequently made. from memory, they are generally inaccurate. I am clearly of opinion that wherever a quotation is made, it should be given literally as it appears in the work from which it is taken, otherwise it is worse than useless, — for it misleads.

With regard to extracts from the Bible, I hold it indispensable that they should be given without the slightest variation from the original; but as many words in the Bible vary in their orthography from Johnson's Dictionary, which is the book of reference generally in use, and as the authorized editions of the Scriptures differ in this respect from each other in many instances, I have collated the King's Printers, the Oxford, the Cambridge, and the Edinburgh editions with Johnson's Dictionary and with each other, for the purpose of enabling the printer to preserve uniformity in orthography with little trouble to himself in reprints of the Bible, and in extracts occurring in religious works, according as the author may prefer any of these editions.

These variations from each other do not extend to words but are confined to the orthography, and to the difference of the same expression being given in one word, in two words, or in being made a compound word; thus in the Cambridge and the Edinburgh Bibles there are a great number of compound words, while in the King's Printers and Oxford Bibles the same words are given either joined together as one word or made into two words; and we find very few compound words, except proper names. I have also given the Bible orthography where Johnson gives two ways of spelling a word. The result will be seen in the following Table; which also shows the variations, to a certain degree, that have taken place in the language during the last two hundred years.

The late Mr. Thomas Bensley, who was printer to the University of Oxford, told me, about the year 1805, that they had a sealed copy there, as a standard to read from; if this be the case, it is difficult to account for their copies of late years having numerous variations from the earlier editions. I think it very desirable that there should be a standard edition that we could refer to, as a pure text; and it would also be desirable to know on what authority these variations are made in the holy Scriptures, for every word, every point, nay every capital letter, I believe, was carefully considered before it was adopted in the first edition of the authorized version in 1611, and this too by a considerable number of the most learned men of the kingdom, who had the direction of the work.

With regard to the words in the Bible printed in Italic characters, Dr. Myles Smyth, one of the two appointed Revisers of the authorized version, in the Preface to the first edition, published in 1611, gives the following reason for their use: —

“Moreouer, whereas the necessitie of the sentence required any thing to be added (for such is the grace and proprietie of the Ebrewe and Greeke tongues that, it cannot, but either by circumlocution, or by adding the verbe or some word, be vnderstood of them that are not well practised therein), wee haue put it in the text with an other kinde of letter, that it may easily bee discerned from the common letter.”

The Preface was written and affixed by the King's command. The first Edition of the Bible was printed in Black Letter, and the “other kinde of letter” was roman; when the Black Letter was disused, and the Roman character substituted, the “other kinde of letter” was changed to Italic. Dr. Smyth was afterwards Bishop of Gloucester.

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