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the House of Commons, he stated, that a rigid scrutiny of a nonpareil Bible, printed at the Oxford press, disclosed upwards of twelve thousand errors. It must be granted, that the inaccuracies which may be charged upon the Oxford and Cambridge presses, in recent times, have not affected the integrity of one promise, command, or doctrine of the Scriptures; they are such as will occur in printing establishments under the most careful management; but while they do not argue against the competency of the patentees as printers of the Bible, they certainly do not argue for their exclusive possession of that right. It has been remarked, that, during the Commonwealth, when the patent was abolished, and all might print who pleased, some of the finest and most accurate editions of the Scriptures were produced ; and in America, where there is no restriction, the word of God is circulated in as much purity as with us. In fact, let the Bible be the printer's own book, and that strong commercial sagacity which tells him that his other typographical productions must be accurate to be marketable, will lead him to aim at securing a correct text. It is not conceivable that any wilful corruption of the Scriptures should be attempted in our day, as it would entail instant detection, disgrace, and loss. In an edition of Luther's German Bible, published by Zachariah Schürers at Wittemberg, in 1625, a Roman Catholic printer substituted neu for ewig in Rev. xiv. 6, reading the passage, “ I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven having the novel gospel,” a blow at the disciples of the reformer, who were accustomed to apply the passage to him; but with reference to the sacred record, now in the possession of thousands, and familiar to all classes of society, it is not a supposable case that there should be any tampering with it, in the face of immediate discovery and certain shame. Dishonest controvertists have generally been sufficiently wise only to tamper with documents that are rare, and in a foreign language, knowing that an exposure of their deceit would tell more powerfully against them than ten thousand arguments.*
It has been stated further, that the monopoly of Bible printing secures to the proprietors a large and certain sale, and thus admits of their producing comparatively cheap copies.
Monopolies of any kind are seldom cheap things; and all the evidence that has been adduced in relation to the one in question, goes
* The impudence of some people is really astonishing. In the Tracts for the Times, No. 52, we are told, “it was his (Christ's) will that the eleven disciples alone, not himself personally, should name the successor of Judas.” Read Acts i. 15—25. Some of our Baptist friends are not over scrupulous in quoting Scripture. In a “ Concise History of Foreign Baptists, by G. H. Orchard, Baptist Minister, Steventon, Bedfordshire, 1838," we are informed, “ John and Jesus exercised their ministry for a short time to the same people, and during the same period both administered the ordinance, John iv. 1.” p. 5. Read John iv. 1 and 2.
directly to confirm the natural presumption, that its operation is more expensive to the community than what a free competition would be. When Charles the First's printers, besides being mulcted three hundred pounds for their error, had the printing of the Bishop of Peterborough's Catena and Theophylact imposed upon them, the king evidently thought that their profits would well enable them to bear the expense, for he observes in his letter to Laud already quoted, “our patentees for printing being great gainers by that patent which they hold under us.” Upon complaints being made, in the reign of George I., of the high price and inferior character of the Bibles of the patentees, the king issued an order to them, dated Whitehall, April 24, 1724 ; “1. That all Bibles printed by them hereafter shall be printed upon as good paper, at least, as the specimens they have exhibited. 2. That they forthwith deliver four copies of the said specimens to be deposited and kept in the two secretaries' offices, and in the public registries of the archbishop of Canterbury and the bishop of London, to the end that recourse may be had to them. 3. That they shall employ such correctors of the press, and allow them such salaries as shall be approved from time to time, by the archbishop of Canterbury and bishop of London, for the time being. 4. That the said patentees for printing Bibles do print in the title-page of each book the exact price at which such book is sold by them to the booksellers.” While these directions display a commendable anxiety on the part of the crown to prevent the monopoly being abused, they yet show what its practical working has been—the enrichment of private individuals at the nation's expense, and at the cost of withholding from the poorer classes a copy of that gospel, which it was the Saviour's glory, and a mark of his divine mission, to preach to the poor. We cannot have a more decided proof as to the tendency of the monopoly being to keep up a high price
, than the fact, that, since the question of its abolition has been agitated, the price has been materially lowered, and the workmanship of the editions improved. Several printers have prepared estimates, which, when compared with the patentee prices, show that cheapness would be the effect of an open trade.
It must be regarded, therefore, as demonstrated, that the monopoly tends to enhance the cost of the Scriptures, which is assuredly a great moral wrong. The common people thought it an act of high presumption, when the ministers of the crown proposed the window-tax, and thus compelled them to pay for the free light of heaven; but there is just reason to deem it an act of presumption, for any party to impose a tax upon the free light of Divine Revelation !
4. Some observations now are necessary upon the law of the case. The letters patent granted by the crown, order, “the subjects of us, our heirs, and successors, whatsoever and wheresoever abiding, and all others whatsoever, that neither they nor any of them, neither by themselves nor by any other or others, during the said last mentioned term of thirty years, print, or cause to be printed, within that part of our said United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, called England, any volume, book, or work, or any volumes, books, or works, the printing of which we by these presents have granted to the said Andrew Strahan, George Eyre, and Andrew Spottiswoode, their executors and assigns; nor any Bibles, or New Testaments in the English tongue, of any translation, with notes or without notes, nor any Books of Common Prayer and Administration of the Sacraments and other Rites and Ceremonies of the said United Church of England and Ireland.” It is proverbially said, that the Court of Chancery has a long arm ; so it seems has the crown, at least if it has the ability to accomplish what this document states; but it appears to me that it would require much legal chicanery to show that the power assumed by the crown in these letters patent is consistent with the British constitution. It is argued, that, because the sovereign was at the expense of the translation being made, therefore through all time it is the sovereign's right to dispose of the printing of it; but by parity of reasoning, it might be concluded that, because King James wrote, and was at the expense of printing, a certain “ Counterblast to Tobacco," therefore our present queen, and her heirs for ever, have a copyright interest in that notable perform
It is argued, however, that the sovereign, as the head of the church, has the right to dispose of its statute-book according to his pleasure—an argument which must be allowed to be valid in relation to those who have signed the thirty-nine articles. But these points of constitutional and ecclesiastical law are perhaps too nice for my handling : let us take, therefore, a practical view of the document cited above.
* Extracted from the Speech of the Rev. J. Campbell, as reported in the Patriot of October 29th, 1840.
It has been usually considered to be no violation of the legal rights of the patentees, to print the Scriptures in the old or in a new translation with notes; but according to the letters patent, it would seem at first sight, that authors of new versions, and printers of the one authorized, with or without a commentary, are trenching upon forbidden ground. “Print or cause to be printed ... of any translation ... with or without notes,” are the terms made use of. If this understanding of the document were to be acted upon, Mr. Bagster might shut up his shop, John Wesley's notes, generally printed with the text at the Conference Office, one of the text-books of Methodism, becomes a prohibited article, almost all our commentaries are illegal productions, and Dr. Henderson, with the printer of his translation of Isaiah, is a dependant upon the forbearance of Andrew Strahan, George Eyre, and Andrew Spottiswoode. But though this is Mr. Campbell's interpretation of it,* yet no court of law would so decide, or could by any possibility pat in force such a decision. The patentees themselves show, that this is not practically their understanding of the charter, for since 1819 they have not thought of claiming such extended rights; and a close inspection of the patent will bring out another view of the matter. Observe how the words “the said United Church of England and Ireland” occur as the closing members of a sentence, connected therefore with all the antecedents; and I think that the patent must be understood, and can only be rightly interpreted, as referring to “ Bibles or New Testaments in the English tongue, of any translation, with or without notes," for the use of the “said United Church.” Upon this interpretation, Lord Chancellor Clare founded his judgment, when the rights of the Irish patentees were tried before him—“ I can conceive,” said he,“ that the king, as the head of the church, may say there shall be but one man who shall print Bibles and Books of Common Prayer, for the use of churches, and other particular purposes, and that none other shall be deemed correct books for such purposes ; but I cannot conceive that the king has a prerogative to grant the monopoly of Bibles for the instruction of mankind in revealed religion.”
The way is now open for me to come to my more immediate purpose, which is to suggest the execution of an improved, though not altered, edition of the sacred volume for the use of Congregationalists, getting rid of the dedication and the monopoly; and I throw out the following hints as the outline of a plan which, if taken up with zeal and caution
by the Congregational Union, would add to its pecuniary resources, its moral influence, and contribute to the edification of our people.
1. I propose, in the first instance, an edition of the New Testament only. This would involve but a comparatively small outlay; and, speaking commercially, there is reason to believe that it would not be an unprofitable undertaking.
2. It would be the wisest course to retain the whole text of King James's version. There are some phrases which might be altered to advantage, being repugnant to modern refinement; there are words also in the original which are badly translated, or not translated at all ; still, to meet the prejudices of the age in favour of the old version, to leave undisturbed its hold upon the memory, and not to set an example of meddling with it, the two latter reasons being important in my view, I would have the common text adhered to.
3. The version might, however, be improved, and an edition of it be a very valuable boon to our people, by a judicious selection of marginal references, and a foot-note to each page of a line or two, containing emendations or explanations of the translated text, as occasion required. It would be advisable to include all the marginal readings of the old translators, for they form a part of the version, and are essential to its integrity. Dr. Adam Clarke remarks, that he “found, on collating many of them with the originals, that those in the margin are to be preferred to those in the text, in the proportion of at least eight to ten.” Those new readings of the original in whose favour general criticism has decided, might also be referred to, distinctly keeping this object in view, the furnishing of the common mind with a plain and faithful transcript of the inspired word. But a specimen will convey a better idea of my meaning than a description ; and therefore, without selecting the most defective passages, I merely introduce the following as a sample of the plan upon which an edition might be executed.
And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quarternions of soldiers to keep him, intending after Easterl to bring him forth to the people.-Acts xi. 4.
God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the Scriptures saith of Elias, how he maketh intercession 3 to God against Israel, saying.—Rom. xi. 2.
For if Jesus 2 had given them rest, then would he not afterward have spoken of another day.—Heb. iv. 8.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, 4 to feed the church of God.-Acts xx. 28.
1 After the passover.-Easter was known to our Pagan ancestors, but not to the apostles.
2 Joshua.- The rest to which he conducted Israel was not the final rest promised.
3 Complaint.—Elijah represented his treatment by his countrymen to God. 4 Bishops.—The same persons are spoken of as elders in v. 17.