Winchester College and the KJV, 2011 Exhibition

mid-August - mid-September
Location: Winchester, Hampshire, United Kingdom
Organisation: Winchester College
Topic: Bible


Please note that the dates are yet to be confirmed.

Two successive Wardens of Winchester, Thomas Bilson (1546/7–1616), and John Harmar (c1555-1613), were involved with the KJV, and the College has portraits in oil of both. Bilson, by that stage Bishop of Winchester, was a member of the second Cambridge company translating the Apocrypha and, together with Myles Smith, was entrusted with the final preparation of the text for the printers. Harmar was a member of the second Oxford company assigned to work on the translation of the Gospels, Acts, and the Book of Revelation. John Bois, a member of the Second Cambridge Company, attended the meeting at which two members from each company discussed the final text, and he kept a record of the discussions. Of the 24 members of this group, there is only one individual named in the manuscript – John Harmar, which indicates the regard in which he was held by the other members.

When he was made Warden, one of Harmar’s first actions was to build a study and it is presumed that this was the room in which his translating took place. By his will the College received a number of books (many bearing a brass-edged donatory plaque) which he had used during the translating, including an Antwerp Polyglot, a Geneva first French Bible, the first Italian and Spanish Bibles, and otherwise unrecorded editions of a Luther Bible and an early Dutch translation. The books he left the College are displayed in the room he built. The Winchester College Archives contain a number of documents relating to Harmar’s Wardenship, including a document signed by Elizabeth I agreeing to his election.

In addition to Harmar’s personal collection, the College has an extensive collection of over 400 Bibles, which includes the Cuthbert Hamilton Turner Bequest. Some of these individual editions are of interest: a Complutensian Polyglot with the signature of Thomas Cranmer; a Greek NT in a binding which, it has been suggested, was designed for the Emperor Charles V; a Greek NT printed in Basel in 1538 in an ornate dated (1539) blind-stamped vellum binding, with portrait roundels of Johan Frederick, Elector of Saxony, Martin Luther, Erasmus and Melanchthon, three of whom were still alive at that point; and a Cranmer Great Bible in five volumes bound for Dorothie Stafford, mother of the Old Wykehamist would-be regicide. The collection also includes, for example, all the principal polyglot Bibles and the first seven editions of Erasmus.

The plan is to have an exhibition lasting in the region of five weeks, overlapping the end or beginning of a school term, thus making it accessible to the public – the precise time of year is partly dependent on the necessity for the exhibition building (School) to be used for public examinations. At the time of writing the most favoured period is from mid-August through to the end of the third week in September. The exhibition will centre upon the Winchester contribution to the KJV. Visiting speakers will be invited to give lectures. Negotiations are in hand with other institutions with a view to borrowing items to fill in gaps.

The exhibition would start with examples of early MS Bibles in both Latin and English; all the polyglot editions; a display of printed English Bibles prior to the KJV; a central section devoted to the two Winchester translators, which would include their portraits, books from their libraries, and associated documents; then there would be examples of subsequent editions of the English Bible, showing how the text was improved, corrected and occasionally manipulated; some examples of the Bible in other languages, including John Eliot’s Indian Bible – the first Bible translated specifically for the purposes of evangelization; and the final display would relate to George Moberly, (Headmaster, 1836-66) who was one of the original members of the committee of the Revised Standard Version and whose notebook account of the meetings we have.

There will be a section of the proposed College website devoted to this exhibition, and I am in the process of setting up a dedicated email address to deal with enquiries.

WGD. November 2008.

The Scottish Bible Society Westminster Abbey Historic Royal Palaces Society of Biblical Literature Museums, Libraries, Archives - London