Report on the making of the version of 1611, presented to the Synod of Dort in 1618

Session Seven.
20 November, Tuesday am.

The theologians of Great Britain offered a written explanation of the design and plan in accordance with which the business of the very accurate English version was instituted by the most Serene King James, of what plan was observed in distributing the work, and what rules were laid down for the translators; with the intent that any points which might be judged useful to us might be taken from it. A copy of this document is subjoined:

Method which the English Theologians followed in the version of the Bible.

The theologians of Great Britain, unwilling to give a sudden and unconsidered answer to so important a question, considered it their duty to hold an early consultation, and since honourable mention has been made of the very accurate English translation lately set forth, with great care and at great expense, by the most Serene King James, to notify to this numerously attended Synod the design and plan with which this sacred business was furnished by his most Serene Majesty.

Firstly, in the distribution of the work he willed this plan to be observed: the whole text of the Bible was distributed into six sections, and to the translation of each section there were nominated seven or eight men of distinction, skilled in languages.
Two sections were assigned to certain London theologians; the four remaining sections were equally divided among the theologians of the two Universities.

After each section had finished its task twelve delegates, chosen from them all, met together and reviewed and revised the whole work.

Lastly, the very Reverend the Bishop of Winchester, Bilson, together with Dr. Smith, now Bishop of Gloucester, a distinguished man, who had been deeply occupied in the whole work from the beginning, after all things had been maturely weighed and examined, put the finishing touch to this version.

The rules laid down for the translators were of this kind:

In the first place caution was given that an entirely new version was not to be furnished, but an old version, long received by the Church, to be purged from all blemishes and faults; to this end there was to be no departure from the ancient translation, unless the truth of the original text or emphasis demanded.

Secondly, no notes were to be placed in the margin, but only parallel passages to be noted.

Thirdly, where a Hebrew or Greek word admits two meanings of a suitable kind, the one was to be expressed in the text, the other in the margin. The same to be done where a different reading was found in good copies.

Fourthly, the more difficult Hebraisms and Græcisms were consigned to the margin.

Fifthly, in the translation of Tobit and Judith, when any great discrepancy is found between the Greek text and the old vulgate Latin they followed the Greek text by preference.

Sixthly, that words which it was anywhere necessary to insert into the text to complete the meaning were to be distinguished by another type, small roman.

Seventhly, that new arguments should be prefixed to every book, and new headings to every chapter.
Lastly, that a very perfect Genealogy and map of the Holy Land should be joined to the work.

Richard Bancroft’s Rules for translating the King James Bible (1604)


1. The ordinary Bible read in the church, commonly called the Bishops’ Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the truth of the original will permit.

2. The names of the prophets, and the holy writers, with the other names in the text, to be retained as near as may be, accordingly as they are vulgarly used.

3. The old ecclesiastical words to be kept, namely, as the word church not to be translated congregation &c.

4. When any word hath divers significations, that to be kept which hath been most commonly used by the most eminent Fathers, being agreeable to the propriety of the place, and the analogy of faith.

5. The division of the chapters to be altered either not at all, or as little as may be, if necessity so require.

6. No marginal notes at all to be affixed, but only for the explanation of the Hebrew or Greek words, which cannot without some circumlocution so briefly and fitly be expressed in the text.

7. Such quotations of places to be marginally set down, as shall serve for the fit reference of one Scripture to another.

8. Every particular man of each company to take the same chapter or chapters; and having translated or amended them severally by himself, where he thinks good, all to meet together, confer what they have done, and agree for their part what shall stand.

9. As any one company hath dispatched any one book in this manner, they shall send it to the rest, to be considered of seriously and judiciously; for his Majesty is very careful in this point.

10. If any company, upon the review of the book so sent, shall doubt or differ upon any places, to send them word thereof, note the places, and therewithal send their reasons; to which if they consent not, the difference to be compounded at the general meeting, which is to be of the chief persons of each company, at the end of the work.

11. When any place of special obscurity is doubted of, letters to be directed by authority, to send to any learned man in the land for his judgment in such a place.

12. Letters to be sent from every Bishop to the rest of his clergy, admonishing them of this Translation in hand; and to move and charge as many as, being skilful in the tongues, have taken pains in that kind, to send his particular observations to the company, either at Westminster, Cambridge, or Oxford.

13. The directors in each company to be the Deans of Westminster and Chester, for that place; and the King’s Professors in the Hebrew and Greek in either University.

14. These translations to be used, when they agree better with the text than the Bishops’ Bible:
Whitchurch’s [Great],

15. Besides the said directions before mentioned, three or four of the most ancient and grave divines in either of the Universities, not employed in translating, to be assigned by the Vice-Chancellor, upon conference with the rest of the Heads, to be overseers of the Translations, as well Hebrew as Greek, for the better observation of the fourth rule above specified.

King James Bible Dedicatory





The Translators of the Bible wish Grace, Mercy and Peace, through JESUS CHRIST, our Lord.


G REAT and manifold were the blessings, most dread Sovereign, which Almighty God, the Father of all mercies, bestowed upon us the people of England, when first he sent Your Majesty’s Royal Person to rule and reign over us. For whereas it was the expectation of many, who wished not well unto our Sion, that upon the setting of that bright Occidental Star, Queen Elizabeth of most happy memory, some thick and palpable clouds of darkness would so have overshadowed this Land, that men should have been in doubt which way they were to walk; and that it should hardly be known, who was to direct the unsettled State; the appearance of your Majesty, as the Sun in his strength, instantly dispelled those supposed and surmised mists, and gave unto all that were well affected exceeding cause of comfort; especially when we beheld the Government established in Your Highness, and Your hopeful Seed, by an undoubted Title, and this also accompanied with peace and tranquillity at home and abroad.

But among all our joys, there was no one that more filled our hearts, than the blessed continuance of the preaching of God’s sacred Word among us; which is that inestimable treasure, which excelleth all the riches of the earth; because the fruit thereof extendeth itself, not only to the time spent in this transitory world, but directeth and disposeth men unto that eternal happiness which is above in heaven.

Then not to suffer this to fall to the ground, but rather to take it up, and to continue it in that state, wherein the famous Predecessor of Your Highness did leave it: nay, to go forward with the confidence and resolution of a Man in maintaining the truth of Christ, and propagating it far and near, is that which hath so bound and firmly knit the hearts of all Your Majesty’s loyal and religious people unto You, that Your very name is precious among them: their eye doth behold You with comfort, and they bless You in their hearts, as that sanctified Person who, under God, is the immediate Author of their true happiness. And this their contentment doth not diminish or decay, but every day increaseth and taketh strength, when they observe, that the zeal of Your Majesty toward the house of God doth not slack or go backward, but is more and more kindled, manifesting itself abroad in the farthest parts of Christendom, by writing in defence of the Truth, (which hath given such a blow unto that man of sin, as will not be healed,) and every day at home, by religious and learned discourse, by frequenting the house of God, by hearing the Word preached, by cherishing the Teachers thereof, by caring for the Church, as a most tender and loving nursing Father.

There are infinite arguments of this right christian and religious affection in Your Majesty; but none is more forcible to declare it to others than the vehement and perpetuated desire of accomplishing and publishing of this work, which now with all humility we present unto Your Majesty. For when Your Highness had once out of deep judgment apprehended how convenient it was, that out of the Original Sacred Tongues, together with comparing of the labours, both in our own, and other foreign Languages, of many worthy men who went before us, there should be one more exact Translation of the holy Scriptures into the English Tongue; Your Majesty did never desist to urge and to excite those to whom it was commended, that the work might be hastened, and that the business might be expedited in so decent a manner, as a matter of such importance might justly require.

And now at last, by the mercy of God, and the continuance of our labours, it being brought unto such a conclusion, as that we have great hopes that the Church of England shall reap good fruit thereby; we hold it our duty to offer it to Your Majesty, not only as to our King and Sovereign, but as to the principal Mover and Author of the work: humbly craving of Your most Sacred Majesty, that since things of this quality have ever been subject to the censures of illmeaning and discontented persons, it may receive approbation and patronage from so learned and judicious a Prince as Your Highness is, whose allowance and acceptance of our labours shall more honour and encourage us, than all the calumniations and hard interpretations of other men shall dismay us. So that if, on the one side, we shall be traduced by Popish Persons at home or abroad, who therefore will malign us, because we are poor instruments to make God’s holy Truth to be yet more and more known unto the people, whom they desire still to keep in ignorance and darkness; or if, on the other side, we shall be maligned by self-conceited Brethren, who run their own ways, and give liking unto nothing, but what is framed by themselves, and hammered on their anvil; we may rest secure, supported within by truth and innocency of a good conscience, having walked the ways of simplicity and integrity, as before the Lord; and sustained without by the powerful protection of Your Majesty’s grace and favour, which will ever give countenance to honest and christian endeavours against bitter censures and uncharitable imputations.

The Lord of heaven and earth bless Your Majesty with many and happy days, that, as his heavenly hand hath enriched Your Highness with many singular and extraordinary graces, so You may be the wonder of the world in this latter age for happiness and true felicity, to the honour of that great GOD, and the good of his Church, through Jesus Christ our Lord and only Saviour.

Benjamin Blayney’s Report on the editorial work of the King James Bible (1769)


To the Rev. the Vice-Chancellor, and the other Delegates of the Clarendon Press.

THE Editor of the two editions of the Bible lately printed at the Clarendon Press thinks it his duty, now that he has completed the whole in a course of between three and four years close application, to make his report to the Delegates of the manner in which that work has been executed; and hopes for their approbation.

In the first place, according to the instructions he received, the folio edition of 1611, that of 1701, published under the direction of Bishop Lloyd, and two Cambridge editions of a late date, one in quarto, the other in octavo, have been carefully collated, whereby many errors that were found in former editions have been corrected, and the text reformed to such a standard of purity, as, it is presumed, is not to be met with in any other edition hitherto extant.

The punctuation has been carefully attended to, not only with a view to preserve the true sense, but also to uniformity, as far as was possible.

Frequent recourse has been had to the Hebrew and Greek Originals; and as on other occasions, so with a special regard to the words not expressed in the Original Language, but which our Translators have thought fit to insert in italics, in order to make out the sense after the English idiom, or to preserve the connection. And though Dr Paris made large corrections in this particular in an edition published at Cambridge, there still remained many necessary alterations, which escaped the Doctor’s notice; in making which the Editor chose not to rely on his own judgment singly, but submitted them all to the previous examination of the Select Committee, and particularly of the Principal of Hertford College, and Mr Professor Wheeler. A list of the above alterations was intended to have been given in to the Vice-Chancellor at this time, but the Editor has not yet found time to make it completely out.

Considerable alterations have been made in the Heads or Contents prefixed to the Chapters, as will appear on inspection; and though the Editor is unwilling to enlarge upon the labour bestowed by himself in this particular, he cannot avoid taking notice of the peculiar obligations, which both himself and the public lie under to the Principal of Hertford College, Mr Griffith of Pembroke College, Mr Wheeler, Poetry Professor, and the late Warden of New College, so long as he lived to bear a part in it; who with a prodigious expence of time, and inexpressible fatigue to themselves, judiciously corrected and improved the rude and imperfect Draughts of the Editor.

The running titles at the top of the columns in each page, how trifling a circumstance soever it may appear, required no small degree of thought and attention.

Many of the proper names being left untranslated, whose etymology was necessary to be known, in order to a more perfect comprehension of the allusions in the text, the translation of them, under the inspection of the above named Committee, has been for the benefit of the unlearned supplied in the margin.

Some obvious and material errors in the chronology have been considered and rectified.

The marginal references, even in Bishop Lloyd’s Bible, had in may places suffered by the inaccuracy of the Press; subsequent editions had copied those Errata, and added may others of their own; so that it became absolutely necessary to turn to and compare several passages; which has been done in every single instance, and by this precaution several false references brought to light, which would otherwise have passed unsuspected. It has been the care of the Editor to rectify these, as far as he could, by critical conjecture, where the copies universally failed him, as they did in most of the errors discovered in Bishop Lloyd’s edition. In some few instances he confesses himself to have been at a loss in finding out the true reference, though the corruption was manifest in the want of any the most distinct resemblance between the passages compared altogether. Cases of this sort indeed did not often occur; so that a very small number of the old references are, with the sanction of the Committee, omitted, and their places more usefully supplied.

It had been suggested by the late Archbishop of Canterbury, that an improvement might be made inthe present editions of the Bible, by taking in a number of additional references, of which many useful
ones, as he supposed, might be furnished from other editions referred to by him, and particularly from a Scotch edition, of which the present Vice-Chancellor was kind enough to lend a Copy. The references found in it, which were indeed very numerous, having been severally turned to and examined, such of them were selected as the Editor judged most pertinent, together with others that
occurred from his own reading and observation. In doing this he has endeavoured to keep clear of mere fanciful allusions, of which too many presented themselves in the before named Scotch edition;
and to adhere as near as possible to the plan marked out in the former collection made by Bishop Lloyd; pointing out such passages chiefly, where the same history or the same name was introduced, the same matter treated of, or sentiment expressed, or at least where parallels might fairly be drawn; and sometimes where a similar use of a particular word or expression tended to illustrate the application of it, on another occasion. The number of References being thus augmented considerably, the Collection upon the whole will, it is hoped, be regarded as useful in the light of a concordance, material as well as verbal, always at hand.

In this state the quarto Copy was sent to press; and the first proofs carefully collated with the Copy, both text and margin; after which the second proofs were again read, and generally speaking, the third likewise; not to mention the frequent revisions of proofs besides, which are common in correcting the press. This proved indeed a very tiresome and tedious task; but was not more than was absolutely necessary in order to attain the degree of accuracy that was wished. A particular attention was required with respect to the figures belonging to the marginal References, where errors were continually creeping in after a manner that would appear highly astonishing to those, who have never been concerned in correcting multitudes of figures, as they come from the press.

When the quarto Sheets were printed off, the Forms were lengthened out in order to make up the folio edition; in doing which the parts were often so jumbled together, and such Confusion introduced by misplacing the References and mistaking the Chronology, that nothing else would suffice than a fresh Collation of the whole with the quarto Copy, and a repetition of almost the same trouble and care in the revisal, and in making up the running Titles anew, as had been used before. But the Editor thinks he has just reason to congratulate himself on the opportunity hereby given him of discovering and correcting some few trivial inaccuracies, which in spite of all his vigilance had escaped his notice in the quarto edition. So that the folio edition is rendered by this somewhat the more perfect of the two, and therefore more fit to be recommended for a standard Copy.

The Editor humbly hopes this Account of his proceedings will not be unacceptable to the Board; and will think his time and pains not ill bestowed, if he shall have succeeded in his desire of giving satisfaction to those who honoured him with the employment, and of contributing in any wise to God’s honour, and the public utility.


Hertford College,
Oct. 25, 1769.

A List of the Translators of the King James Bible (1604–1611)


First Westminster Company

Genesis to 2 Kings
Lancelot Andrewes (head) — Cambridge University
William Bedwell — from Cambridge
Francis Burleigh
Richard Clarke — Cambridge University
Geoffrey King — Cambridge University
John Layfield — Cambridge University
John Overal — Cambridge University
Adrian Saravia
Richard Thompson — Cambridge University
Robert Teigh — Cambridge University
First Cambridge Company
1 Chronicles to Song of Solomon
Roger Andrewes — Cambridge University
Andrew Bing — Cambridge University
Laurence Chaderton — Cambridge University
Francis Dillingham — Cambridge University
Thomas Harrison — Cambridge University
Edward Lively (head) — Cambridge University
John Richardson — Cambridge University
Robert Spalding — Cambridge University
First Oxford Company
Isaiah to Malachi
Richard Brett
Richard Fairclough
John Harding (head)
Thomas Holland
Richard Kilby
John Reynolds
Miles Smith (final editor)
Second Cambridge Company
The Apocrypha
John Bois — Cambridgeshire
William Branthwaite — Cambridge University
Andrew Downes — Cambridge University
John Duport (head) — Cambridge University
Jeremiah Radcliffe — Cambridgeshire
Robert Ward — Cambridge University
Samuel Ward — Cambridge University
Second Oxford Company
Matthew to Acts and Revelation
George Abbot
John Aglionby
Richard Eedes
John Harmer
Leonard Hutten
James Montague
John Perin
Ralph Ravens
Thomas Ravis (head)
Sir Henry Savile
Giles Thomson
Second Westminster Company
Romans to Jude
William Barlow (head) — Cambridge University
Thomas Bilson (final editor)
William Dakins — Cambridge University
Roger Fenton — Cambridge University
Ralph Hutchinson
Michael Rabbet
Thomas Sanderson
John Spencer
Seventh Company, London
Richard Bancroft (overseer)
George Ryves (overseer of the New Testament)
William Thorne (member of First Oxford Company)
Daniel Featley (member of First Oxford Company)
William Eyre — Cambridge University (member of Second Cambridge Company)