Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Family Bibles: 455 years of Bibles in the Knight Collection at Chawton House Library

The Knight Family have lived on the estate of Chawton since 1524. Four generations on Elizabeth Knight, whose portrait can be seen in the Great Gallery, made her cousin Thomas May her heir. Thomas May, taking the name Knight united the properties of Chawton and Godmersham Park in Kent. Both houses had libraries and the current Knight Collection now holds what remains.

Thomas Knight’s son, also Thomas, adopted Edward Austen, again a cousin, as his heir. The arrival of Jane Austen in the village in 1809 happened because Edward Austen Knight provided a home in the Bailiff’s Cottage. His son, also Edward, made his home at Chawton from 1826 and Godmersham Park was sold in 1874.The main collection contains a sales catalogue of the estate, and the contents of the library at Godmersham were moved to Chawton House. The holdings of the Godmersham Park Library were recorded in 1818 in the surviving two volume manuscript catalogue, which gives us some idea of the books moved to Chawton after the sale of Godmersham.

Edward died a few years later in 1879 and his son Montagu, inherited Chawton Park. Montagu Knight had a catalogue compiled for the library at Chawton House in 1908 and currently the existing Knight Collection is being catalogued.

The current owner, Richard Knight, inherited the collection in 1989 and no changes have been made to it since then, so with the documentary evidence we have about the family holdings we will in time reconstruct the development, changes and dispersals of a family’s collection over several generations between 1818 and 1989.

This long-term project includes the Bibles held in the Knight Collection at Chawton House Library which date back to before the King James Bible was completed in 1611. It is pertinent at the point where 400 years of the King James Bible is being celebrated to look at one family’s relationship with religion using some of the evidence we have.

William Tyndale produced the first printed translation of the New Testament in English in 1525. The official Great Bible of 1539, with a preface picturing Henry VIII, was intended for reading aloud in churches and it re-used much of Tyndale's work. In 1557 the Geneva (Calvinist) New Testament in English was published, followed in 1560 by the complete Geneva Bible. This was superseded in England in 1568 by the official Bishops' Bible, although the Geneva Bible was still widely used. Then in 1601, there was the new initiative in Scotland which led to the production of the King James Bible in 1611. By about 1900 the language of the King James Bible was seen as increasingly archaic and many other versions have been produced, including the New English Bible, amongst many others, but also one we are familiar with now.

So far I have collated the following list of the bibles in the Knight Collection:

1. Hole, W. (ill.) (1909?) The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ: translated out of the original Greek: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesty's special command .London: Eyre & Spottiswoode. [Accession no. 9471] Illustrated and containing prayer cards.

2. The New English Bible: New Testament (1961). Oxford: Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press. [Accession no. 9482]

3. The New English Bible: New Testament (1961). Oxford: Oxford University Press; Cambridge University Press. [Accession no. 9469] This Bible is dedicated to ‘Anne from Hylda Bannister with many happy memories of Hall Dene School, Alton, and best wishes for a very lovely life in the future’.

4. The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testament; translated out of the original tongues: being the version set forth A.D. 1611 compared with the most ancient authorities and revised (1960). London: The British and Foreign Bible Society. [Accession no. 9483] Inscribed ‘Anne Knight’ with lists of bible readings.

5. The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testament / translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised by His Majesty’s special command; appointed to be read in churches; Authorized King James version; printed by authority (1957). London & New York: Collins’ Clear-Type Press. [Accession no. 9475] inscribed ‘Anne Knight’ and containing a prayer card.

6. The Holy Bible - containing the Old and New Testament translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty’s special command; appointed to be read in churches (1938). Oxford: Oxford University Press. [Accession no. 9467]

7. Leusden, J. and Hooght, E.v.d. (eds.) (1831) Biblia Hebraica, secundum ultimam editionem jos. athiae a Johanna Leusden...ab Everado van der Hoght, V. D. M. Editio nova, recognita, et emendata, a Judah D'Allemand. Londini: Typie excudabat A. Macintosh, 20 Great New Street. Impensis Jacobi Duncan, Paternoster Row. [Accession no. 9478] Inside the front board is the stamp of Adela Portal, and inside the back board the bookplate of her son, Montagu Knight.

8. The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testament: translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised / by His Majesty’s special command. Appointed to be read in churches; Authorized King James version; printed by authority (1929). Oxford: Printed at the University Press, for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge. [Accession no. 9481] Contains two black and white bookplates for P. A. Knight of a type , one is Peter Rabbit, that suggests ownership by a child.

9. The child’s Bible being a consecutive arrangement of the narrative and other portions of holy scripture in the words of the authorized version: with upwards of two hundred original illustrations (1897). London: Cassell and Company Limited. [Accession no. 9470]

10. The annotated paragraph Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments, arranged in paragraphs and parallelisms; with explanatory notes, prefaces to the several books, and an entirely new selection of references to parallel and illustrative passages. The Old Testament. (1864). London: The Religious Tract Society. [Accession no. 9472] This bible is that of C.E. Knight (Charles Edward Knight) who was a younger son of Edward Austen Knight and lists the details of his family’s births and deaths from 1846-1918.

11. Scott, T. (ed.) (1850) The Holy Bible; containing the Old and new Testaments, according to the authorized version; with explanatory notes, practical observations, and copious marginal references / by the late Rev. Thomas Scott... a new edition, with the authors last corrections and improvements, and eighty-four illustrative maps and engravings. [New edn.] London: Printed for Messrs. Seeleys, Fleet-Street and Hanover-Street; Hatchard and Co., Piccadilly; and Nisbet and Co., Berners-Street. [Accession no. 9473]

12. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments: translated out of the original tongues: and with the former translations diligently compared and revised / by his Majesty's special command. Appointed to be read in churches. (1841). Oxford: Printed at the University Press, by Samuel Collingwood and Co. printers to the University; for the Society for promoting Christian Knowledge. [Accession no. 9484] There are a set of bibles, differing slightly in size but bound similarly, this one is inscribed ‘Chawton Lending Library, 1841’ and because of the context of the 1840 bible seems to have been made available to the village under the influence of Adela Knight.

13. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments: translated out of the original tongues; and with the former translations diligently compared and revised / by his Majesty's special command. Appointed to be read in churches. Cum privilegio. (1840). Cambridge: Printed by John W. Parker, University Printer; and for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London. [Accession no. 9485] Labelled ‘Chawton House, Blue Room’ and dates from the time of Edward Knight’s marriage to Adela Portal.

14. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments: translated out of the original tongues; and with the former translations diligently compared and revised / by his Majesty's special command. Appointed to be read in churches. Cum privilegio. (1839). Cambridge: Printed by John W. Parker, University Printer; and for the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, London. [Accession no. 9487] Bound similarly to the 1840 bible this is labelled ‘Chawton House, Green Dressing Room’ and is a partner to the ‘Blue Room Bible’.

15. Girdlestone, C. (ed.) The Old Testament. With a commentary consisting of short lectures for the daily use of families by the Rev. Charles Girdlestone M.A. vicar of Sedgley, Staffordshire (1837). London: Printed for J. G. & F. Rivington. [Accession no. 9477]

16. Girdlestone, C. (ed.) The New Testament of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. With a commentary consisting of short lectures for the daily use of families by the Rev. Charles Girdlestone M.A. vicar of Sedgley, Staffordshire (1835). London: Printed for J. G. & F. Rivington. [Accession no. 9476]

Both of the Girdlestone testaments contain the bookplate of Montagu Knight.

17. Scott, T. (ed.) (1835) The Holy Bible containing the Old and New Testaments, according to the authorized version; with explanatory notes, practical observations, and copious marginal references / by Thomas Scott, Rector of Aston Sandford, Bucks. New edn. with the author's last corrections and improvements; and with two maps London: Printed for L. B. Seeley and Sons; Hatchard and Son; Baldwin and Cradock; and R. B. Seeley and Burnside. [Accession no. 9474]

18. The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testament / translated out of the original tongues and with the former translations diligently compared and revised, by His Majesty’s special command; appointed to be read in churches (1833). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

19. D'Oyly, G. and Mant, R. (eds.) (1826) The Holy Bible, according to the authorized version; with notes, explanatory and practical taken principally from the most eminent writers of the United Church of England and Ireland: together with appropriate introductions, tables, indexes, maps and plans / prepared and arranged by the Rev. George D'Oyly and the Rev. Richard Mant... under the direction of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, for the use of families. Oxford: Printed for the Society at the Clarendon Press. [Accession no. 9468] This bible contains the bookplate of Edward Knight and lists, as traditionally for a family bible, Edward Knight’s marriage to Adela Portal, his second wife, and the details of their children, including Montagu Knight. This seems to confirm that the ‘Edward Knight’ bookplate found in the Knight Collection is not that of Edward Austen Knight as may have been thought. It also appears that the first leaf has been removed and this may have recorded the details of Edward Jnr.’s first marriage to Mary Dorothea Knatchbull.

20. La Bible qui est toute la Ste. Ecriture du Vieil et du Nouveau Testament autrement L'Ancienne et la Nouvelle Alliance (1678) .Amsterdam: chez la Veuve de Schippers. [Accession no. 9479] Contains Montagu Knight’s bookplate.

21. Cranmer, T. (1585) The Holy Byble, conteining the Olde Testament and the New. Authorised and appointed to be read in churches. Imprinted at London: By Christopher Barker, printer to the Queen's most excellent Maiestie. [Accession no. 8962] contains the bookplate of Montagu Knight.

22. Il Nvovo Ed Eterno Testamento Di Giesv Christo (1556). Lione: Per Giouanni di Tornes e Guillelmo Gazeio. [Accession no. 9480] Contains the bookplate of Montagu Knight.

The next step now is to see which of these can be found in both the 1818 and 1908 catalogues and to see what conclusions can be drawn from this evidence. Were the oldest bibles owned by the Knight family at the time of their publication, or purchased by Montagu Knight? There is a huge preponderance of bibles published from the 1830s and those of the sixteenth century contain Montagu Knight’s bookplate and it may be useful to look further at the influence of the Oxford Movement, and Anglo-Catholicism on Adela Knight, and subsequently her son.

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