Prefaces to Major Bible Editions

Printers, translators and editors of major Bible editions have often inserted a preface to explain their purpose and methods in producing their work. Many of these discuss major issues of translation and textual criticism. Others are more theological and discuss the Bible’s significance as the Word of God. Some also discuss the practical benefits of Bible study. Prefaces from the following key Bibles in the Dunham Bible Museum have been transcribed for ease of study and reading:

1560 Geneva Bible Preface – Describes principles of translation used by the translators of the Geneva Bible, the first English Bible translated directly from both the Greek and Hebrew.

1611 King James Version – The King James Bible translators set an example for later translators to follow. Their “to the reader” describes in some detail the purposes and translation methods of the translators.

John Witherspoon’s “To the Reader” first printed in Isaac Collins’ 1791 Bible.

Thomas Scott’s Commentary on the Bible 1804. The preface to Thomas Scott’s bible commentary is a persuasive presentation of the history, veracity and inspiration of the Bible. It was often printed in other Bible editions as well.

Address to Family Governors from William Burkitt’s Expository Notes 1794. Burkitt explains the importance of families studying the Scriptures together daily.

“The Harmony and Perfection of the Holy Scriptures” – preface to Samuel Bagster’s “Polyglott Bible,” 1822.

T.W. Coit’s Bible with philological annotations, 1834. Coit was concerned that the format of the Bible, with verses, chapters, etc, was distracting from the true Word of God itself.

Noah Webster’s 1833 Bible. Webster explains principles of translation and the need for modernizing the King James Version after 200 years.

Cottage Polyglot Testament 1846. Testament prepared by William Patton for use in Bible classes, Sunday Schools and Christians generally. Deals with importance of Scripture commenting on Scripture, evidences of Christianity, and nature of Old and New Testaments.

New Testament with notes by Clement Moody 1852. Provides history of revisions of King James Bible and how marginal Scriptural references were developed.

Isaac Leeser’s Jewish Bible 1853. Leeser thought the Jews needed a translation by one of their own; too many had to read the King James Bible to read their Scriptures.

Francis Kenrick’s Catholic translation 1860, Kenrick’s Catholic translation is based on the Latin Vulgate with consultation of the Greek and Hebrew.

Family Bible published by the American Tract Society 1861. Includes Thomas Chevalier’s preface to Polyglot Bible on the harmony and perfection of Scriptures as well as Rev. Justin Edwards on “The Bible God’s Gift For Men.”

National Illustrated Family Bible, 1870s.  Scottish Presbyterian pastor and theologian John Eadie edited notes from Matthew Henry’s and Thomas Scott’s commentaries to include in this family Bible.  His preface includes an apologetic against scepticism and presents the importance of the Scriptures and the means of studying the Scriptures.

Julia Smith’s Bible 1876. First printed Bible translated by a woman.

Introduction to the authorized English version of the New Testament by Constantine Tischendorf 1880. Discoverer of the Codex Sinaiticus explains why discovery of new manuscripts warranted a new translation of Bible.

Revised Version of the New Testament 1880. Translators explain their rules and principles of translation.