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God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible
Synopses & Reviews
A net of complex currents flowed across Jacobean England. This was the England of Shakespeare, Jonson and Bacon; of the Gunpowder Plot; the worst outbreak of the plague England had ever seen; Arcadian landscapes; murderous, toxic slums; and, above all, of sometimes overwhelming religious passion. Jacobean England was both more godly and less godly than it had ever been, and the entire culture was drawn taut between the polarities.
This was the world that created the King James Bible. It is the greatest work of English prose ever written, and it is no coincidence that the translation was made at the moment Englishness and the English language had come into its first passionate maturity. Boisterous, elegant, subtle, majestic, finely nuanced, sonorous and musical, the English of Jacobean England has a more encompassing idea of its own reach and scope than any before or since. It is a form of the language that drips with potency and sensitivity. The age, with all its conflicts, explains the book.
The sponsor and guide of the whole Bible project was the King himself, the brilliant, ugly and profoundly peace-loving James the Sixth of Scotland and First of England. Trained almost from birth to manage the rivalries of political factions at home, James saw in England the chance for a sort of irenic Eden over which the new translation of the Bible was to preside. It was to be a Bible for everyone, and as God's lieutenant on earth, he would use it to unify his kingdom. The dream of Jacobean peace, guaranteed by an elision of royal power and divine glory, lies behind a Bible of extraordinary grace and everlasting literary powesignalling device, hungry leeches, cold cucumber soup, a horrible villain, and a doll named Pretty Penny, then this book will probably fill you with despair.I will continue to record these tragic tales, for that is what I do. You, however, should decide for yourself whether you can possibly endure this miserable story.
With all due respect,
"....wonderfully evokes a world we too often fragment into our categories of literature, art and politics.... [Nicolson]'s own words give us not only the rich history but a moving commemoration of the Bible that has so much shaped our utterances and lives." Kevin Sharpe, The Independent
"Nicolson tells the KJV's story so well that his book may prove to be the KJV's indispensable companion for years to come." Ray Olson, Booklist
Book News Annotation:
A gaggle of 50 or so black-gowned divines who were obscure at the time and whose names are almost unknown today, is how British publisher and travel writer Nicolson characterizes "God's secretaries." These men spent seven years, from 1604 to 1611, poring over Greek and Hebrew texts, comparing previous translations, and arguing over fine details to produce what is widely recognized as a highlight of English literature and a milestone in the Protestant movement in Britain. He sifts through the few records of their work to elucidate their method and purpose.
Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Nicolson gives a fascinating and dramatic account of the era of the King James Bible and its translation, immersing readers in an age whose greatest monument is not a painting or a building but a book. 16-page insert.
About the Author
Adam Nicolson is the author of Sea Room and the bestselling New York Times Notable Book God's Secretaries. He is a winner of the Somerset Maugham and William Heinemann prizes, and he lives with his family at Sissinghurst Castle.
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