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The King James Bible was a landmark in the history of the English language, and an inspiration to poets, dramatists, artists and politicians. Without the King James Bible there would have been no Paradise Lost, no Pilgrim’s Progress, no Handel’s Messiah. Yet more than a literary, even more than a religious influence, it was seen as a social, economic and political text. Those seeking to overthrow the English monarchy and those wanting to retain it, both sought support from the same Bible.

So how did this remarkable translation come to be written? To answer this question is to throw open the doors of a world which was being transformed by the new technology of printing. In reading about the greatest English text ever produced we must close our eyes to our own world in which books are plentiful and readily available and enter another, very different universe…