Matthew's Bible

A leaf from The Byble ... truelye and purely translated into Englishe by Thomas Matthewe, published by Thomas Raynalde and William Hyll in London in 1549 (305 x 198 mm)

The Bible version on which later ones are primarily based is known as the Matthew, or Matthew's, Bible.  The statement at the front that it was translated into English by Thomas Matthew, is more tactical than factually accurate. There was no Thomas Matthew, and in any case he was more compiler and editor than translator. The name was a pseudonym (perhaps formed from the names of two of Christ's disciples) used by an English cleric called John Rogers, who was based in Antwerp in the 1530s. Tyndale and Coverdale were also in that city at the time, and Rogers was able to 'rescue' Tyndale's papers when the latter was placed under house arrest.

Matthew's Bible derives mainly from Tyndale's translation, along with parts from Coverdale, improved and complemented by Rogers himself, who seems to have been a sound scholar. 1500 copies of what has been called 'this scholarly and majestic tome' were produced in Antwerp in 1537 and shipped across to England. Thomas Cromwell showed a copy to the king, Henry VIII, who gave it his blessing. Rogers had wisely made no mention in his Bible of the debt to William Tyndale, who by then had been burnt as a heretic

 My leaf is from a later edition produced in London, though the black-letter type and layout seem to be very similar to the original. It carries part of the book of Lamentations in the Old Testament. These chapters are translations of Hebrew poems, in which each section is headed by a letter of the alphabet, Aleph, Beth, Gimel . . . . In chapter 3, on the recto page, for example, each of these alphabetical headings is followed by three phrases which in the original tongue all began with that letter – an arrangement known as an acrostic. The notes which appear at the end of each chapter are a feature of the Matthew Bible.

John Rogers eventually returned home, but as a protestant fell foul of the church authorities when the catholic Queen Mary acceded to the throne. He became the first of the many protestants martyred during her reign, perishing with dignity in the flames at Newgate in February 1555, bolstered by the presence of a large crowd of supporters among whom were his wife and their eleven children.

Recto

Verso

top