Published online by Cambridge University Press: 28 March 2008
This volume begins with the manuscript book in Britain as it was when Geoffrey Chaucer died in 1400. It ends with the printed book as it was in 1557, the year in which the English book-trade was consolidated with the grant by Philip and Mary of a charter to the Stationers’ Company of London. In this year also were published, in London, the English Works of Thomas More and, in Geneva, an important translation into English of the New Testament, the forerunner of the Geneva Bible.
The first of these two books was printed and published, as its contents had been written before the Reformation, in the Catholic interest, then again briefly in the ascendant in England. It drew verbally on a vernacular poetic tradition in its echoes of Chaucer’s phraseology, as well as spiritually on the authority of the Church, laying particular stress on the Church’s role as arbiter of scriptural interpretation. The second book was the successor of several earlier reformed English Bible translations, of which one in particular had received the endorsement of Henry VIII. Taken together, these two volumes reflect changes and upheavals in British society during a century and a half. At the same time, they bear witness to continuities.