The Book: A History of the Bible

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9780714837741: The Book: A History of the Bible

A narrative account of the Bible as a book and as an artefact, from the earliest fragments found in the Egyptian desert to the plethora of modern editions and translations. The author seeks to write as an impartial historian and bases his account on documentary evidence, focusing on the manufacture, translation and distribution of Bibles in an extraordinary variety of forms throughout nearly two millennia. The first chapter deals with the achievement of Saint Jerome, whose Latin translation - the Vulgate - first gave the Bible the definitive form it has retained ever since. Chapter Two then looks back to the separate history of the Bible in its original languages of Hebrew and Greek, after which the narrative returns to document the gradual triumph of the Latin Vulgate, the magnificent giant Bibles of the early Middle Ages, the Bible with its monastic commentaries, the crucial development of the portable Bible in the 13th century, and the vogue for splendid Bible picture books. Chapter Seven tells the story of the famous Wycliffite English Bibles, once condemned as heretical and now highly prized. The invention of printing was a turning point, and a whole chapter is devoted to Gutenberg and the first printed book - the celebrated 42-line Bible. The narrative then leads on to the humanist scholars, Martin Luther and the Reformation, the Lutheran Bible and the Protestant-led wave of translations of the Bible into other modern languages, the development of a book publishing industry, and the extraordinary efforts of missionary societies to translate the Bible into every known language in the world. The last chapter takes the story right back to the beginning, and chronicles the discoveries by modern scholars and archaeologists - principally papyrus fragments from the Egyptian desert and the Dead Sea Scrolls - that have dramatically increased our knowledge of the origins of both Old and New Testaments.

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About the Author:

Christopher de Hamel took a doctorate in palaeography at Oxford University, and from 1975 to 2000 was head of the Western Manuscripts department at Sotheby's, London. He is now Fellow Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. His History of Illuminated Manuscripts, published by Phaidon (2nd edition, 1994), has become a standard work. Other books include Glossed Books of the Bible (1991) and Scribes and Illuminators (1992).

From Library Journal:

In this sumptuous feast for the eyes and mind, de Hamel, former manager of the Western Manuscripts department at Sotheby's, London, and author of A History of Illuminated Manuscripts, deals not with theological content but with the Bible as an artifact. Presented here in exquisite, full-color reproductions are the many forms in which the Bible has appeared over the centuries. Rather than opening with a discussion of the Hebrew and Greek texts (which he saves for Chapter 2), de Hamel relates a history of the texts and manuscripts of Latin Bibles. This organization makes sense, as Saint Jerome's seminal Latin translation, the Vulgate, became the blueprint for the modern Bible. The rest of the book covers the giant Bibles of the Middle Ages, commentaries on the Bible, portable Bibles of the 13th century, Bible picture books, English Wycliffite Bibles, the Gutenberg Bible, Bibles of the Protestant Reformation, the English and American Bible industry, and missionary Bibles. The final chapter, "The Modern Search for Origins," details modern discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls. Even the bibliography, though not arranged alphabetically but by chapter with the author's running commentary on the sources, is a treasure. By contrast, The Oxford Illustrated History of the Bible (LJ 10/15/01) offers short articles by biblical scholars and covers not only the preservation of the Bible but also interpretations and contemporary theology. Also, its illustrations are mostly black and white. De Hamel's wonderful presentation is highly recommended. David Bourquin, California State Univ., San Bernardino
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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