In response to the flurry of English translations and New Testament textual criticism in a recently Protestantized late sixteenth century Europe, a certain group of very well-educated English-speaking Roman Catholics, sadly in exile from their home country for the sake of their religion, produced a translation into English of the Latin Vulgate, relatively recently proclaimed at the Council of Trent as the authoritative Latin Bible, essentially the official Bible of the Roman Catholic Church. The New Testament was published at Rheims in 1582, and the Old Testament at Douai in 1610, “By Lavrence Kellam, at the signe of the holie Lambe.”
Most people are familiar with this Bible in the form it took under the capable hand of Bishop Challoner in the late eighteenth century, or even the last revision of it as the Confraternity Bible of the mid-twentieth century. Typically, however, reprints of these versions do not include the original prefaces of the translators, just as they don’t include the extensive and numerous notes. The sixteenth century English orthography, wild spelling, peculiar punctuation, and rambling syntax all combine to make the original almost entirely unreadable these days, removing this extremely important piece of English Catholic history from accessibility.
I’ve just edited the preface to make it more easily readable. It’s now roughly at the level of late eighteenth century English, which people are familiar enough with through standard editions of Shakespeare and the King James Bible (the editions of both of which with which most are familiar were established in that time period). So, basically, there are some thees and thous and, yea, some odd sentence that passeth, but it’s now a good site better than the original, let me tell you.
Lo, a link to said Preface, if you’re interested. I intend to reformat the page later, but the text is done. Reading it, I think you’ll be surprised, as I was, at the depth of knowledge on the side of these Catholics regarding textual criticism and the value of the Vulgate for such. Their interaction with the Protestants (“The Adversaries”) is fascinating. It’s really a remarkable document, and should be more widely known. So here it is, and hopefully it will be. Enjoy!