Lot 48
  • 48

Bible in English [The "Matthew" Bible]

25,000 - 35,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • The Byble, Which is All the Holy Scripture: In Whych Are Contayned the Olde and Newe Testament Truly and Purely Translated into Englysh by Thomas Matthew. M, D, XXXVII. Set Forth with the Kinges Most Gracyous Lyc[n]ce. [Antwerp: Matthew Crom for Richard Grafton and Edward Whitchurch, London, 1537]
  • paper, ink, leather
4 parts in one volume, folio (13 1/2 x 9 in.; 343 x 229 mm).  542 of 556 leaves. Black letter in two columns, 60 lines to the full column, full-page woodcut of Adam and Eve in Eden, 2 half-page woodcuts preceding Psalms and Proverbs, title of the Apocripha printed in red and black within a border composed of 15 woodcuts, title of the New Testament printed in red and black within a woodcut border depicting scenes both from the Old and New Testament, the "Ballet of Balettes of Salomon" printed in red and black, 111 extant woodcut text illustrations (some repeats), numerous woodcut historiated and floral initials, including the large flourished initials "W.T." (i.e., William Tyndale) at the of the Book of Prophets.  Lacking  14 leaves: quire * (includes general title), l2, Hh8 (title-page for "The Prophetes in Englysh"), N6, and O2, 5–8, leaves a1, O1, 3–4 defective and remargined with substantial text loss, marginal repairs to a few other leaves chiefly at the end (some with occasional loss of text or sidenotes), several other minor marginal repairs, long tears to Apocripha and NT title-pages neatly mended, worm trails (a2–b3) costing ca. 2–4 words in a line on each leaf,  some dampstaining and browning. Contemporary English calf over wooden boards, blind roll-tooled center panel, brass corner bosses and lozenge shaped boss at the center of each cover, metal clasps and catches, rudimentary finger hold on front cover, commonplace notes and family records by and of the Walford family (1627–1836) bound in at front and back, by H. Stone, edges sprinkled red; sympathetically rebacked,  most bosses flattened or depresse few old scrapes to lower board.


Formatting the Word of God 8.3; STC 2066; ESTC S121981; Peter W.M. Blayney, The Stationers' Company and the Printers of London. Vol. 1 1501–1546 (2013), pp. 356–360, passim; Herbert 34; Price & Ryrie, pp. 49–53, passim

Catalogue Note

First edition of "Matthew's" version, the first English bible which was distributed under a "royal license." It "welds together the best work of Tyndale and Coverdale, is considered to be the real primary version of our English Bible" (Herbert). Most of the text comes from Tyndale's translation (including the New Testament and the Pentateuch), supplemented by his unpublished manuscripts— for example, scholars concur that Joshua to 2 Chronicles possess all the stylistic hallmarks of Tyndale's work on Hebrew scripture during the last five years of his life. Ezra to the Apocrypha are drawn substantially from Miles Coverdale's version. The compiler and editor John Rogers, a close associate of Tyndale, used the pseudonym Thomas Matthew in order to distance himself and the work from the dangerous name of Tyndale, who was executed for heresy in 1536.  Oddly enough, Rogers preserved Tyndale's notorious preface to Romans, which the latter had derived from Martin Luther. Likewise, Tyndale's florid initials boldly appear at the end of the Old Testament. Rogers's own contribution to the bible came from his translation of the Prayer of Manasseh.   

In late July, the publishers presented a copy of the complete Matthew Bible to Archibishop Cranmer. After perusing it, he passed it on to Cromwell on 4 August, noting "as for the translation; so farr as I haue redde therof, I like it better than any other translacion hertofore made" (quoted by Blayney, p. 358).  He also recommended that Cromwell show it to the king and try to obtain a license for it to be sold without restriction. A week later, Cranmer wrote to thank Cromwell for having succeeded. Ironically, the work of a condemned heretic thus received the approval of the Supreme Head of the Church of England, and would form the foundation of the Great Bible of 1539 and later that of the Authorized Version of 1611.