A 17th century English translation of the book has turned up more than 400 years after it was written.
Found among notes and manuscripts in an obscure archive at the University of Cambridge, the draft had been written by Samuel Ward – one of 54 people commissioned by King James to create a new English translation of the Bible which better reflected the principles of the Church of England.
The manuscript, which is written in messy handwriting and contains pages of notes and scribblings, is not only the earliest known draft of the King James Bible but is also the only surviving draft of the book to have been written by any of the original translators.
“Ward’s draft alone bears all the signs of having been a first draft, just as it alone can be definitively said to be in the hand of one of the King James translators themselves,” wrote Jeffrey Miller, an assistant professor of English at Montclair State University in New Jersey.
The King James Bible itself, which was first pushed back in 1611, went on to become one of the most influential books in English literature and was the origin of several phrases that are still used today such as “at their wit’s end” and “eat, drink and be merry.”
“One of the things I hope is that the draft that I found leads us to discover more drafts of the King James Bible, because maybe we have a better idea of what that might look like,” said Miller.