William Tyndale, a Facsimile and Me

No doubt many peoples' lives have been influenced by the purchase of a particular book but little did I realise that none would be that Saturday now, morning in 1977 when I wandered into the book department of that well-known London department store, Selfridges. I had intended only to browse but my eye was caught by a facsimile copy of William Tyndale's 1526 New Testament, on display in a glass case. The thick volume was sumptuously hand bound in black leather and it came complete with its own leather-covered wooden box. Having a long interest in antique books, and bibles in particular, it was irresistible and I had to buy it, although I could ill afford it at the time. It proved to be one of a limited luxury edition of 240 copies published by Paradine in 1976 to commemorate the 450th anniversary of the publication of the original.

I previously had only a little knowledge of William Tyndale and the brief biography by Professor F.F. Bruce (more about Tyndale's New Testament than the translator) printed at the end of the facsimile simply served to whet my appetite. Who was this man Tyndale, what did he achieve (apart from translating the New Testament) and how could I get to know more about him? Over the next couple of years or so I searched the new and second- hand bookshops in vain for a biography. I subsequently obtained a copy of ‘The History of the Bible in English’ by F.F. Bruce and also read similar works which gave me useful information but still I wanted to know more. Eventually I found a book entitled ‘The Story of William Tyndale’ by Charles Tyler, published in 1898. Although it was apparently written principally for children, I found it both interesting and fascinating. Then in 1982 1 discovered Brian H. Edward's ‘God's Outlaw’ in its second edition.

Although I treasured my facsimile copy of Tyndale's first New Testament I didn't regard it as just a ‘museum piece’ to adorn my bookcase but resolved to read it from cover to cover (probably not the best way to study a bible!). I found the ancient black letter type remarkably easy to read after a little practice. The words just seemed to flow and many passages had a familiar ring so I compared them with the Authorised (King James) Version and soon reached my own conclusion that much of the latter was, in fact the work of Tyndale.

I should, perhaps, point out that I am no scholar but simply earn my living as an accountant. Since 1982 1 have been raising a family (with the help of my wife, of course!) so I have a very limited amount of time or resources at my disposal. My interest in William Tyndale and his works was not forgotten but I had to push this to the back of my mind. This interest was, however, rekindled when I heard about the quincentennial celebrations towards the end of 1994. 1 first heard a brief review of Professor David Daniell's biography on the BBC World Service, then I heard the broadcast Commemorative Service from the chapel of Magdalen College, Oxford, on BBC Radio 4. Thus stimulated, I decided I had to purchase a copy of Professor Daniell's book — whilst in the book-shop I picked up a copy of a leaflet advertising the Tyndale exhibition at the British Library which I just had to visit. I did so — three times! The exhibition was excellent — it was a tremendous thrill to see the original of my facsimile as well as the original letter written by Tyndale from Vilvoorde, together with the other memorabilia. This exhibition in turn led to me becoming a member of Tyndale Society.

What can one say about Professor Daniell's book without overdoing the superlatives? It is certain to be the definitive work on Tyndale for many years to come. It is more than just a biography because it covers such a wide range of aspects of Tyndale's work, life and times. I thoroughly enjoyed my first reading of it but needed to read it more than once. It is an absorbing book which one can return to time and time again and each time find something new or previously overlooked.

I regret that I do not have more time at my disposal to enable me to conduct some researches of my own. I wish good luck to those who are researching various aspects of William Tyndale and I look forward to reading some of the results in this Journal. My best wishes for the success of the Tyndale Society.

Colin Wolfe



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