A New Jersey college professor recently discovered what's thought to be the earliest known draft of the most read English book in the world. Jeffrey Miller, who teaches at Montclair State University, found a notebook in England last year that included 70 pages covered in the scribbled writing of Samuel Ward -- one of the original scholars who translated the King James Bible. Miller revealed his findings in the Times Literary Supplement Wednesday.
"There was a kind of thunderstruck, leap-out-of-bathtub moment,” Miller told the New York Times. “But then comes the more laborious process of making sure you are 100 percent correct.”
The King James Bible was published in 1611 as the work of six companies comprised of nearly 50 translators. Ward's work on one Greek section, the Apocrypha, eventually became part of a masterpiece lauded today for its elegant style, the Guardian reported. The King James Bible has been reproduced more than 1 billion times since its release.
Miller uncovered the draft at Sidney Sussex College in Cambridge while doing research for a related project. He wrote in the Supplement that he didn't initially think the writing was anything more than notes and biblical commentary, but then he realized its significance.
The notebook Miller found dates to 1604 and contains notes showing "the way Greek, Latin and Hebrew are all feeding into what will become the most widely read work of English literature of all time,” he told the Times. It also proves that the companies split their work among translators.
"It clearly shows [Ward] not just recording group decisions about the translation after the fact, or even doing so in the process of group decisions being made, but rather working out the translation for himself as he went along, making mistakes and changing his mind," Miller wrote. He added, "The [King James Bible], in short, may be far more a patchwork of individual translations – the product of individual translators and individual companies working in individual ways – than has ever been properly recognized."
The King James Bible has made the news twice this month. Just last week, a pastor in Wales found a rare first edition of the book, of which there are thought to be fewer than 200 still in good condition, the Christian Examiner reported. Like Miller, he found it in a place he wasn't expecting: a cupboard.