[From Manx Quarterly, #21, 1920]

CENTENARY OF THE MANX 1819 BIBLE.

It is just one hundred years since the British and Foreign Bible Society brought out the whole bible in Manx in one volume. The first, an edition in three volumes, which was published by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, under the episcopate of Bishop Hildesley, in 1771-5, was by this time scarce, the 2,000 copies of which it consisted having been long out of print, and as far back as 1803 that Society had been approached by Bishop Crigan with a view to the printing of a second edition. The cost (1,100) which the proposed 2,000 Copies would involve, was held to be prohibitive, and as a compromise a new edition of the Manx Prayer Book was decided upon and brought out in 1808. Before this appeared, however, negotiations were opened by the Rev J. Stephen, Rector of Ballaugh, and Bishop Crigan, with the B.F.B.S., then recently founded, for carrying out the original design for a bible. A report was asked for by the Society as to the number of those for whom provision was desired to be made, and the Rev Hugh Stowell, of Kirk Lonan, stated in reply that the population of the Island was computed at 30,000, of whom one-third knew no English and another third, though able to speak English, preferred the Manx. Divine service was at this period conducted in Manx in nearly all the churches on three Sundays in the month, and occasional duties always in that language. In this connection it may be worth noting that the last sermon preached in Manx in a parish church was one by the Rev J. Qualtrough, at Arbory, on the last Sunday in July, 1875. The result of the appeal to the B.F.B.S. was the publishing of a sterotyped 12mo. edition of the New Testament in 1810, followed by another issue in 1815. In 1817, the Rev S. Haining, one of the secretaries of the Isle of :Man Auxiliary Society, formed in Douglas in 1813, stated that of this edition only 160 remained on hand. The population had by this time increased to 36,000, of whom he says, 14,000 were " but little acquainted with English." The first idea of the Society was to print 5,000 copies of the Old Testament of the same size as the New Testament already in type, and capable of being bound up with them. It was, however, subsequently determined to print an entirely new edition of the 1771 translation of the Old and New Testaments in one 8vo. volume. The duty of seeing it through the press was entrusted to the Rev H. Stowell, by this time Rector of Ballaugh, but he was superseded by Mr John Kewley, of Ballanard. The latter pointed out to the Society that one copy of the Old Testament previously published differed from another that he had seen, viz. in Judges xv., 3, 4, 5 and elsewhere; the foxes, which Samson tied tail to tail, being in one version rendered "sheaves of corn,' whilst the other followed the English. He was instructed to adopt the English rendering and to expunge all but a few of the footnotes contained in the former edition. Nevertheless numerous differences exist between the 1819 version and the English authorised. Out of a list of fifty, which my friend Mr C. I. Paton has noted, I have selected the following as examples:-Josh. .ii., 1; Judges xv. 19; I. Sam. xxi., 5 ; II. Sam. v., 8 ; 11. Sam. xii., 31; Job i., 5, vi. 9, xii. 5 No portion of the Apocrypha was to be included, so the books of Wisdom of Solomon and Ecclesiasticus, which were appended to the second volume of the Old Testament, were never reprinted, and are now rare. 5,000 copies were issued by the Society at 5s, being half the cost of production. Some of them are bound in beautifully embossed covers, and a few appear to have been done in two volumes. i.e., the Old and New Testament separately. The Manx translation is universally admitted to be a very fine one, an elicited high commendation from suc competent Celtic scholars as Lieut.-Col Vallancey, the Irish writer, and Archibald Cregeen, of Manx Dictionary fame. It will always take its place as the standard of the Manx language, and it has fixed its orthography, which up to that time had been very variable, as no other wore could have done. Although Manx has long ceased to be in general use, we have reason to be thankful to the British and Foreign Bible Society for the noble monument of that language which has come down to us,

G. W. WOOD.

 


 

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