NEH Funding Independent Works of William Tyndale

November 16, 2016

IATH Director Worthy Martin is part of a team recently awarded a $340,000 NEH Scholarly Editions and Translations Grant for "The Independent Works of William Tyndale." The project, led by James Madison University Assistant Professor of English Mark Rankin, is producing a series of print and digital critical editions of William Tyndale's writings.

Tyndale (c.1495-1536) produced a series of important prose tracts between 1528-1536, dealing with political, religious, and intellectual issues of the time, such as the obedience owed to subjects by rules, the nature of faith, and theological reform. His highly influential translation of the New Testament--the first English-language printed version--was a model and source for later English-language versions (including the Geneva Bible and the King James Authorized Version). His translation helped create a new version of the English language that was used by Shakespeare and other writers of the English Renaissance, and coined striking phrases that are still used nearly 600 years later (such as "seek and ye shall find" and "the salt of the earth"). A gifted linguist and theologian, he argued against clerical interference in secular affairs, and against Henry VIII's divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He was arrested and executed at age 41, but his translations and prose works put him at the center of history and literature of the period.

Despite his importance, there are few published collections of his work available and those are not useful to scholarly efforts. Over time, publishers and editors have altered Tyndale's language and removed sections that were controversial or offensive. Only one critical edition of his works has been published, An Answere vnto Sir Thomas to Mores Dialoge (ed. Anne M. O'Donnell and Jared Wicks, Catholic University Press, 2000). The project team of editors will study archival copies of sixteenth-century editions of Tyndale's works to produce old-spelling annotated critical editions of The Obedience of a Christen Man, The Practyse of Prelates, The Exposition of the Fyrst Epistle of Seynt Jhon, An Exposicion vppon the v. vi. vii. Chapters of Mathew, The Parable of the Wyked Mammon, Biblical Prefaces, Prologues, and Accompanying Material. They will not only study the text itself but the textual, editorial, publishing, and distribution history. His works were often illegal and printed surreptitiously and anonymously, meaning that clues about the material history of the volumes, and how they were utilized by readers, reside in the original editions. More information about the project is available here.

Each volume will be available in print by the Catholic University of America Press and in a searchable open-access digital version hosted by IATH. IATH's collaboration with this project is made possible by the support of Ron Hutchins, Vice President for Information Technology, who is providing access to computational resources for publishing this work.