This year we are celebrating the 400th anniversary of one of the milestones in Welsh publishing, the 1620 Bible. The first edition of a substantial portion of the Scriptures in Welsh was William Salesbury‘s New Testament, published in 1567. This was followed by William Morgan‘s translation of the whole Bible in 1588. So why publish a new version so soon afterwards? There were several reasons for this. William Morgan was not entirely satisfied with the 1588 edition, which contained a number of misprints. Also, in the meantime the Authorised King James Bible had been published in English in 1611. The English translation had a significant influence in Wales, although the translators were not bound by it in preparing the 1620 Welsh Bible.
The 1620 Bible is known as the Bible of Richard Parry, Bishop of St. Asaph, but the main responsibility for the work lies with Dr. John Davies, Rector of Mallwyd and author of a number of important books including the Welsh grammar Antiquae linguae Britannicae … rudimenta and the Welsh-Latin dictionary Dictionarium duplex. Before moving to Mallwyd John Davies had lived in the same house as William Morgan in St. Asaph and worked with him on a revised version of the New Testament.
The 1620 Bible revised the language of the earlier version, making it more similar to spoken pronunciation. It also includes more than 2,000 new words. Although it was published as a large Bible for use in the pulpit, a smaller edition was published a decade later, the 1630 “Beibl Bach”, which was affordable for ordinary people to buy and read in their homes. The 1620 version was the Bible used by the people of Wales into the second half of the twentieth century and beyond.
Because of this year’s circumstances it has not been possible to hold an exhibition in the National Library in 2020 to celebrate the 400th anniversary, but the intention is to hold it in 2021. In the meantime the Library has held a series of online lectures by prominent scholars to discuss different aspects of the history of the Bible in Wales.
Rare Books Librarian
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