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The 1560 Geneva Bible

The 1560 edition of The Geneva Bible is neat. It was the first English Bible to be printed in a roman type instead of blackletter,11See, for example, the 1535 Coverdale Bible, the first complete Modern English translation and the first complete printed English Bible. the first English Bible to divide the text into both chapters and verses, and it included margin notes for the reader (1969 Fascimilie 12).

1See, for example, the 1535 Coverdale Bible, the first complete Modern English translation and the first complete printed English Bible.

And there are so many interesting typographic details.

Title page

I love this title page. I love the swash caps, the end swashes that break up the horizontal rhythm of the text. I love how some of the lines end in a hyphen and continue in a different style.

OT 1r

That drop cap! And the side margins with annotations, cross references, and commentatary.

(OT 1r)


Detail of some of the drop caps.

NT 3v
NT 4r

There are a number of navigational cues. The headers at the top show the current book, chapter, and cues about the content. Leaves are numbered on the top right and collated by quarto (4 leaves) on the bottom right.

The collation counts , a ... z, A ... Z, Aa ... Zz, & (yes, a literal ampersand, so there’s a leaf numbered &. iii.), Aaa ... Zzz, Aaaa ... Zzzz, Aaaaa ... Bbbbb, (here the New Testament restarts the numbering) AA ... ZZ, AAa ... LLl.

(NT 3v–4r)

NT 3v detail
NT 4r detail

At the bottom of each verso page, one or two words from the following folio have been copied (in this case the word and).

I don’t know what this was for! I don’t think it’s to make it easier to read across pages, since no words are duplicated at the bottom of the recto page. Was this to make it easier to notice if a leaf was missing?

Detail of the sidenote
NT 120r, Revelations 17

Things occasionally get spicy in the margin notes. Note f, attached to Rev 17:4, identifies the Whore of Babylon as “the Antichrist, that is, the Pope.”

I think Chuck Zerby’s The Devil’s Details: A History of Footnotes first brought this to my attention, but I’ve since returned the book to the library and I don’t exactly have a citation.

(NT 120r)

Detail of Genesis 23:15, OT 10r

Detail OT 10r, showing some Printed Early Modern English. Of course, there’s the long s or ſ, but also the ligatures like for that.

So that verse:

My Lord, hearkẽ vnto me: yͤ land is worthe four hũdreth ſhekels of ſiluer: what is yͭ be twene me & thee? bury therefore thy dead.

Would be something like this:

My Lord, harken unto me, the land is worth four hundred shekels of silver: what is that between me and you? Bury therefore your dead.

I should note that my images come from a PDF that’s floating around, dated 2004. It’s not exactly scholarly provenance.


  1. With an introd. by Lloyd E. Berry. The Geneva Bible: A Fascimilie of the 1560 Edition. 1969.