1560s Printer 1: Alma 0

Ah, the Sixteenth Century, when English type-faces looked like German fraktur. Well, and the Seventeenth, and Eighteenth, into the early Nineteenth Century in some places. It does keep you from rushing as you try to sound out the words!

So, I’ve started gathering ideas and references for the story or stories set in Puritan New England. Not going back through the Solomon Kane stories yet, but other things. Since I’m going to be dealing with a community rather than a solitary wanderer, and because I’m me, I needed to figure out which Scriptures would be appropriate for the characters to quote or think of. Trying to do Puritans without religion . . . Nathanial Hawthorn did it in one short story, sort of, and Howard did it because of how he wrote and what he focused on, but I just can’t do it.

They would not, I repeat NOT, cite the Authorized Version (AKA King James) Bible. They would be using the Geneva translation. Which means I need to use the Geneva, which means finding a copy that’s not electronic. I have a parallel-text e-book Geneva and KJV, and it is less than useful for things like this. So I found a gently used copy of the 1560 Geneva Bible.

It is a facsimile, because that’s just how my world is working this year. I opened it, looked at the font, and groaned.

Um, I think you can see the challenge. the uncrossed f is s. V is written with a u, as in “hauing” is “having.” The ye (with the little e over the y) is “the.” Plus the unusual verb tenses and vocabulary . . .

I started with the Psalms, because I know those. Once my mind and eyes shift gears, I can read fairly easily. It is very much like reading old German books.


14 thoughts on “1560s Printer 1: Alma 0

  1. Brain: You’re dyslexic, don’t look.
    Curiosity: A quick peek won’t hurt anything, and don’t you want to see?
    Me: Looks.
    Brain: Hwæt! We Gardena in geardagum,
    þeodcyninga, þrym gefrunon,
    hu ða æþelingas ellen fremedon.
    Oft Scyld Scefing sceaþena þreatum,

    • I did a series on the conversion of Northern Europe to Christianity, and one of the things I did was read part of the Heliand, the Saxon adaptation of parts of the Bible, to the class. Then a translation. The angels appearing to horse-guards to announce the birth at Beth’lemburg raised a few eyebrows.

      • Is that – the Heiliand – where the translation of the “our Father” which contains verbiage to the effect (I can’t find my original source, link dead) of ‘save us from the goblins’ instead of ‘lead us not into temptation’ comes from?

        • Yes.

          I have a prose translation that’s OK. I like the Saxon to German better, but trying to work that into English . . . Some things don’t translate.

  2. Right back to those pesky monks, and space-saving fonts to get more characters on parchment. The half-uppercase S, such an integral part of literature and math.

  3. Yup Geneva bible is the most likely to have found in New England in the 17th century. Certainly that’s what the reenactors at Plimoth Plantation implied. And yes My daughter and I were having fun talking with them one visit a couple years ago and looking at verses we knew in NIV (or sometimes RSV in my case) in their copy. Even without the period typography (your duplicate seems similar to the carefully worn duplicate the reenactors had) the English is just very hard to comprehend to a modern English speaker/reader.

    On a separate Issue I thought Solomon Kane was set in England somewhere in the late 16th /early 17th century. Been a long time gone since I read them, don’t remember Robt E Howard being particularly accurate with his portrayal of religion, but more of a caricature of a Puritan.

    • Some of the Kane stories are in England, some are in Africa. Howard . . . elides the Puritan religion for the most part, with one notable exception (a novella set in Africa, where he quotes part of Isiah without giving a citation). What he got right was the sense of certitude I’ve encountered in some Puritans’ writings. It’s not a completely black-and-white world, but they are 100% certain there there is Good and Evil, and that Good will prevail, especially if they do their bit. They also accept Mystery and that Deity is ultimately unknowable by mortals. That sense bubbles up occasionally in the Kane stories.

    • He was canonically on Drake’s 1577 expedition.
      Whether that was at the beginning, middle, or end of his career is a bit fuzzy.

  4. Took a minute or so, but it is ‘readable’ for versions of readable. Helps to have a familiarity with the bible. I can’t imagine someone that has only used the ‘new’ translations trying to read this! 🙂

    • I could figure it out, from just that sample. One of my jobs a couple of years ago was transcribing handwritten mid-19th century letters from an archive of personal papers of a manufacturing family in the NE US. It was a huge trove of business and personal family letters. It was an interesting project. Some of the writers (mostly the business connections) had very clear handwriting, which was nearly as legible as typewritten. One of the personal correspondents was the father in law of the industrialist, who must have been born around the time of Revolution. I realized early on that he still used the uncrossed ‘f’ when writing ‘s’ – I thought it an interesting curiosity that this convention carried on so far into the 19th century.

      • I spent some time fishing through some of the late 19th and early 20th century reading US census reports from then for genealogy work. Some of the handwriting from those is like modern calligraphy, much of it though could be mistaken for early sanskrit or linear a.
        The non terminal S ( uncrossed f ) is missing from that period. Lots of fun reading old documents. Needed to poke at late 16th century French. Not only are all the odd characters (u for v , the non terminal S) but spelling differs. the ^ indicating removed s so hospital instead of hopital, espee instead of epee (that one has no circonflex as it already has an accent. Though no where near as bad as trying to read contemporary english.

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