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Legal Commentary: Blawg Review
Blawg Review #309
On May 2, 1611, four hundred years to the day, the King James Bible was published for the first time in London, England.
The original printing of the Authorized Version was published by Robert Barker, the King's Printer, in 1611 as a complete folio Bible. It was sold looseleaf for ten shillings, or bound for twelve. Robert Barker's father, Christopher, had, in 1589, been granted by Elizabeth I the title of royal Printer, with the perpetual Royal Privilege to print Bibles in England. Robert Barker invested very large sums in printing the new edition, and consequently ran into serious debt, such that he was compelled to sub-lease the privilege to two rival London printers, Bonham Norton and John Bill. It appears that it was initially intended that each printer would print a portion of the text, share printed sheets with the others, and split the proceeds. Bitter financial disputes broke out, as Barker accused Norton and Bill of concealing their profits, while Norton and Bill accused Barker of selling sheets properly due to them as partial Bibles for ready money. There followed decades of continual litigation, and consequent imprisonment for debt for members of the Barker and Norton printing dynasties, while each issued rival editions of the whole Bible. In 1629 the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge successfully managed to assert separate and prior royal licences for Bible printing, for their own university presses ? and Cambridge University took the opportunity to print revised editions of the Authorized Version in 1629, and 1638. The editors of these editions included John Bois and John Ward from the original translators. This did not, however, impede the commercial rivalries of the London printers, especially as the Barker family refused to allow any other printers access to the authoritative manuscript of the Authorized Version.
We had hoped to get a legal scribe from England to host this week's Blawg Review but, alas, the usual suspects were apparently preoccupied with the Royal Wedding. So, here we are on this historic occasion with no host to speak of but an interesting theme, nevertheless.
The King James Version of the Ten Commandments
I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.
7 Thou shalt have none other gods before me.
8 Thou shalt not make thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the waters beneath the earth:
9 Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
10 And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
Eugene Volokh has a post about Sex-Based Inheritance Rules, Islamic Law, and the Old Testament. (Editor's Note: the professor probably means "gender-based" but one can't not appreciate the lovely Muslim girls served by Google Adsense with his post.)
11 Thou shalt not take the name of the LORD thy God in vain: for the LORD will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.
Which reminds me, where the hell is Geeklawyer when you need him?
12 Keep the sabbath day to sanctify it, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee.
13 Six days thou shalt labour, and do all thy work:
Hard to believe it's the 8th anniversary of this blog.
14 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, nor thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thine ox, nor thine ass, nor any of thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates; that thy manservant and thy maidservant may rest as well as thou.
15 And remember that thou wast a servant in the land of Egypt, and that the LORD thy God brought thee out thence through a mighty hand and by a stretched out arm: therefore the LORD thy God commanded thee to keep the sabbath day.
16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.
By happenstance, John Hochfelder was assigned April 27th to publish this piece. It so happens that April 27th - in 1922 - was when an American hero was born.
17 Thou shalt not kill.
"From an international law perspective, it?s worth noting that the operation against Bin Laden is an example of targeted killing," writes Ilya Somin on the death of Bin Laden and the morality of targeted killings. At the Volokh Conspiracy, too, Kenneth Anderson adds links to his own thoughts on Targeted Killing and Drone Warfare.
"Osama dead; Americans still gripped in fear" notes J. DeVoy at The Legal Satyricon.
18 Neither shalt thou commit adultery.
The Wicked Bible, sometimes called The Adulterous Bible or The Sinners' Bible, is a term referring to the Bible published in 1631 by Robert Barker and Martin Lucas, the royal printers in London, which was meant to be a reprint of the King James Bible. The name is derived from the compositors' mistake: in the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:14) the word not in the sentence "Thou shalt not commit adultery" was omitted. This blunder was spread in a number of copies. About a year later, the publishers of the Wicked Bible were fined £300 (roughly equivalent to 33,800 pounds today) and were deprived of their printer's license. The fact that this edition of the Bible contained such a flagrant mistake outraged Charles I of England and George Abbot, the Archbishop of Canterbury, who said then:Talk about Slackoisie!I knew the tyme when great care was had about printing, the Bibles especially, good compositors and the best correctors were gotten being grave and learned men, the paper and the letter rare, and faire every way of the beste, but now the paper is nought, the composers boyes, and the correctors unlearned.
19 Neither shalt thou steal.
If copying an entire newspaper story is fair use, should we be blamed for stealing large segments from Wikipedia? I didn't think so.
In most of the world the Authorized Version has passed out of copyright and is freely reproduced. This is not the case in the United Kingdom where the rights to the Authorized Version are held by the British Crown under perpetual Crown copyright. Publishers are licensed to reproduce the Authorized Version under letters patent. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland the letters patent are held by the Queen's Printer, and in Scotland by the Scottish Bible Board. The office of Queen's Printer has been associated with the right to reproduce the Bible for centuries, the earliest known reference coming in 1577. In the 18th century all surviving interests in the monopoly were bought out by John Baskett. The Baskett rights descended through a number of printers and, in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Queen's Printer is now Cambridge University Press, who inherited the right when they took over the firm of Eyre & Spottiswoode in 1990.20 Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour.
"You might think that this notion, the whole tell the truth to the judge thing, was pretty well settled. Obviously not," says Scott Greenfield.
21 Neither shalt thou desire thy neighbour's wife, neither shalt thou covet thy neighbour's house, his field, or his manservant, or his maidservant, his ox, or his ass, or any thing that is thy neighbour's.
While it's generally believed that one will burn in Hell for transgressions of the flesh, only recently did we learn from Randazza that you might burst into flames right here on earth.
Speaking of flames, "the Koran is not being burned in Dearborn Michigan but the 1st Amendment has gone up in flames," according to Brian Cuban, in a guest post on Antonin Pribetic's Trial Warrior Blog.
It is commonly believed that the writing of the Old and New Testament was inspired by God. No one will think that of this Blawg Review. Inkster penned an inspired UK Blawg Roundup at The Time Blawg, I know.
Please let me know if we've missed a law blog post that you would have included in a Blawg Review with a biblical theme, and we'll add a link.
Blawg Review has information about how to host one of the upcoming issues, yourself, if you'd like to have a go at it.
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