London: Burns Oates and Washbourne, 1944, 1949. Two volumes. New Testament: (6 3/4 inches tall), original blue cloth, gilt spine. Early owner signature to blank flyleaf, mild foxing to edges, boards toned but gilt bright, corners sharp. Englishing: (7 1/2 inches tall), original green cloth, gilt spine, original dust jacket. Early owner signature, mild stain and edge-wear to original dust jacket. Very good indeed. Item #1253
"PRINTED FOR PRIVATE CIRCULATION ONLY"
Uncommon "Trial Edition" of Ronald Knox's translation of the Challoner New Testament—privately-printed for subscribers in March 1944—eighteen months before publication of the first edition. Together with a first edition of Englishing the Bible, Knox's own account of his controversial, long-delayed new edition of the Douay-Rheims Bible.
"For a hundred years or more the Douay version of the Bible, as amended by Challoner the official text of the Catholic Church in England, had been generally recognized as unsatisfactory" (Evelyn Waugh). After departing from Oxford in 1939, Monsignor Knox had taken refuge of sorts with Lady Acton at Aldenham. There, "at the request of their lordships the archbishop's and bishops of England and Wales" he labored at a translation of the New Testament. A "desire to cultivate culture through literary translation animated Knox's herculean efforts to translate the Bible from the Latin Vulgate into 'timeless English.' Knox's translation of the Bible was a labor of love which consumed the last years of his life" (Joseph Pearce).
Updating the established Douay-Challoner translation was destined to be controversial (a revision by John Henry Newman was proposed and ultimately tabled in the 1850's) and members of the committee, led by C.C. Martindale, S.J. and Hugh Pope, O.P., were quite vocal in their objections. Knox was to answer the numerous objections in Englishing the Bible, a series of articles and addresses collecting "eight interludes in the business of translation, eight attempts to think aloud while I was doing it." Knox acknowledged the notoriety and the controversy with a defense: "If you question a rendering a rendering of mine in the New Testament, you come up against a parental instinct hardly less ferocious than that of the mother-bear."
But there were still clerical complaints and wartime delays to publication. Finally, it was decided to issue a small preliminary edition to test the waters, recoup some of the expenses, establish a copyright for the hierarchy. "A trial edition, strictly for private reading, not issued to booksellers, barely announced in the Press, sold over 9,500 copies in advance. Subscription was by postcard, and Ronnie allowed himself to feel mildly exhilarated." (Penelope Fitzgerald). Knox's name does not appear on the title page but his brief Preface closes: "R. A. Knox / Aldenham Park, Bridgnorth / Feast of St. Jerome, 1943." At long last, Knox's translation (with some minute changes) was ultimately authorized and published by Burns, Oates, and Washbourne in October 1945. Knox's translation of the Old Testament, in two volumes, followed in 1949. The Knox Bible was later supplanted by other translations but enjoyed a sustained period of favor and influence, indicating the high regard for Knox among the hierarchy and the literary figures of the era. Printed by Robert Maclehose and Co. Ltd. The University Press, Glasgow. Waugh. Ronald Knox, Pearce. Literary Converts, Fitzgerald. The Knox Brothers.