Publication of King James Bible
James I had come to the throne in 1603 , and the following year set up the Hampton Court Conference to discuss a new translation of the bible. He was in part demonstrating his control of the church; and perhaps given his mother Mary Queen of Scots ’ Catholicism also marking his Protestant credentials – it was clergy of a Puritan leaning who were concerned at certain aspects of the 1568 Bishop’s Bible.
The great work was divided between six committees, two each in Westminster , Oxford and Cambridge . The scholars were given instructions regarding which previous versions of the bible they could refer to, and it was made very clear that the Episcopal nature of the established church should be supported in the wording of relevant sections. Even the eventual typeface used by the Royal Printer, Robert Barker, was of political significance – it was not to be Roman type, but black letter, emphasizing at once the break with Rome and the official status of the edition. The translators fitted in with this scheme of things by retaining some obviously formal archaicisms (verily for example).
Published in the large folio format (16 inches from top to bottom) again the intention that this version be used in church rather than for private study was driven home; this latter point supported by the lack of illustrations in the first edition. Within a year of the May 2 1611 publication every church in England had a copy, generally chained to the pulpit.
When the six committees had completed their work a General Committee was convened from January 1609 at Stationers’ Hall to go over the results word by word. The final version was considered definitive for generations. But it was not only a massive work of scholarship, and a political statement; it was also a thing often of great literary beauty, thanks in no small part to the use of much of William Tyndale ’s text from his translation. Tyndale was burned at the stake in 1536 for translating the bible into English. Less than a century later the King himself had promoted such a work and in part harnessed it to his own ends. The King James Bible would eventually be referred to as The Authorized Version.
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