As the year draws to a close and we prepare for the festive season, let’s take a closer look at another object in our collection, the Ambleside Curate’s Bible, turned to the page that describes the Nativity.
This is a rare edition of the King James I Authorized Bible, originally published in the early 1600s and locally known as the ‘Ambleside Curate’s Bible’. It was first used during the curacy of the Reverend John Bell at the ‘Old Mountain Chapel’ of St Anne in Ambleside and was in use until the end of the seventeenth century.
Early Bibles in England were often in Latin or Greek, reinforcing the power of the clergy over the general population. Translating the Bible into English was risky, as it was seen as a direct challenge to the Catholic Church. John Wycliffe (1328–1384) and William Tyndale (1494–1536) are notable examples of the persecution scholars and translators faced from the church, as both were declared heretics by the church. Tyndale was executed by strangulation for translating the Bible into English.
The Great Bible of 1539 was the first authorised edition of the Bible in English, authorised by King Henry VIII of England to be read aloud in the church services of the Church of England. It was intended to establish Henry VIII’s position during the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century and led to more people in England reading the Bible for themselves.
To quell debate over different translations, such as the Geneva Bible and the Bishop’s Bible, King James I of England convened a conference in 1604 to create a new translation of the Bible from original scriptural languages, previous translations (including Tyndale’s Bible), and contemporary research. Work on the King James Bible began in 1607, and the text was finally published on 2nd May 1611. Three issues were produced that year, the Ambleside Bible being one of the first. It was named the ‘He Bible’ due to a mistake in the last line of the Book of Ruth 3 verse 15. This bible claims that “he went into the citie,” when it should read “she”.
The Bible is bound in leather-covered wooden boards with brass plates and bosses. The book’s preface and certain other pages have been added from another copy of the same edition. Throughout the book, there are tears and defects that have been carefully repaired, indicating that this book was handled often and was well cared for.
Within the book’s margins, there are many annotations in both English and Latin. For example, Reverend Bell wrote his name, age, and the number of years he had served as curate. He even includes a Latin motto at frequent intervals. Elsewhere in the book, there are three lists of curates and short inscriptions from the late seventeenth century.
We wish all our staff, volunteers, and visitors a joyful festive season and a happy new year!



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