Hannibal Hamlin, Ohio State University
"The Geneva Bible as Bible for Dummies"

Musa Gurnis

The Geneva Bible as Bible for Dummies


"Geneva Bibles"
This exhibit features four copies of the Geneva Bible, a work remarkable for the beauty of its translation and thoroughness and accessibility of its scholarship, as well as for its popularity (140 editions) and impact on English culture. The first edition, printed in Geneva in 1560 by Rowland Hall, is the product of a community of English Protestants in exile, for whom the woodcut of the Israelites in the desert must have had special meaning. The chart, the timeline, and the letter to the reader seen here only begin to give a sense of the richness of the Geneva’s para-textual apparatus. The Geneva is a remarkably reader-friendly Bible. Its various editions include charts like Grashop’s, maps of the Holy Land and Garden of Eden, timelines, summaries, indexes of Biblical names and places, labeled diagrams of Solomon’s Temple or the Ark of the Covenant, a Q & A section on the doctrine of predestination, et cetera. The Geneva’s marginalia is so thorough that it sometimes takes over the page. The marginal notes comment on the text, refer the reader to related scriptural passages, and give alternative translations of the original Hebrew. The marginalia exemplifies the Geneva’s brilliant and transparent scholarship, its typographical sophistication, and the intimacy of the text’s engagement with the reader.