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John Bodley

Birthdate: (73)
Birthplace: Exeter, Devon, UK
Death: October 13, 1591 (69-77)
England, United Kingdom
Immediate Family:

Son of John (ii) Bodley, of Exeter and Alice Gale
Husband of Joan Bodley
Father of Sir Thomas Bodley, MP; Prothesia Bogan; Rev Zacharie Bodley; Miles Bodley; Rev. Laurence Bodley, DD and 6 others
Brother of Richard Bodley and Alice Prestwood
Half brother of Elizabeth Levermore and Thomas Prestwood

Occupation: Printer
Managed by: Scott David Hibbard
Last Updated:

About John Bodley


Regarding the Geneva Bible of 1560, we are told by Moulton:

The expense of the publication of the Genevan Bible was borne by the English community in that city. In 1561 [John] Bodley obtained from the Queen a patent for the exclusive printing of this version during seven years....In the course of Elizabeth's reign as many as seventy editions of the Genevan Bible and thirty of the New Testament, in all sizes from folio to 48mo, some in black letter and others in the ordinary character, were issued from the press. A few of these were printed abroad, but the large majority at home.

p. 166

On the same subject, Hutchinson states, "Bodley had received the patent for its publication; and upon his asking for an extension of the patent for twelve years, the request was generously granted by Archbishop Parker and Grindly, bishop of London..." (ibid., p. 950; see also F. F. Bruce, The English Bible, 3rd edition, p. 91).

One printer, Richard Harrison, because he printed an edition of Cranmer's New Testament without license from Queen Elizabeth I to do so, was fined eight shillings (Moulton, p. 166).

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ From

During the reign of Mary many leading English scholars found refuge abroad, and notably with the Protestant leaders in Geneva, a city which had thrown out its ruling bishop in 1534 and had declared its adherence to the Reformed Church in 1536. The city attracted not only theologians but also scholars and learned presses, such as those of the Etiennes which helped to spread the word of the new doctrine. It also offered refuge to a number of Devonians. During his time on the continent Coverdale visited Geneva. Among those who helped to raise money to pay for Russell's troops was the Exeter merchant John Bodley. Bodley's son Thomas, later the founder of the Bodleian Library was born in Exeter in 1545 and fled with his parents, first to Germany and early in 1557 to Geneva where, as at the age of twelve he became "an Auditour of Chevalerus in Hebrew, of Beraldus in Greek, of Calvin and Beza in Divinity". Another noted Exonian recorded in Bodley's household in Geneva on 8 May 1557 is the young Nicholas Hilliard, son of Richard Hilliard, an Exeter goldsmith, later to become the noted miniature painter. He was two years younger than Thomas Bodley. His father remained in Exeter during the reign of Mary.

In Geneva John Bodley was associated with the scholar William Whittingham and others in the printing of their English translation of the Bible, known as the Geneva or, less respectfully, the Breeches Bible. This was printed by Rowland Hall on a press set up by the English refugees. Bodley seems to have had an early interest in the undertaking. In the archives of Geneva there is a record dated 2 December 1558 containing a petition which formed part of a dispute between John Bodley and William Williams on the one part and Jacques Chappellez and the widow of Jean Girard on the other over the wish of Bodley and Williams to have a stove in the printing office they operated in the house of the late Jean Girard (Rose-Troup 17). This may have been to cast types or, more likely, to warm compositors' fingers in the cold Swiss winter.

According to "The life of Sr Thomas Bodley ... written by himself" (Oxford: Henry Hall, 1647) p. 2-3 news of the "death of Queene Mary, & succession of Elizabeth, with the change of Religion ... caused my Father to hasten into England, where he came with my Mother, and with all their family, within the first [year] of the Queene, and setled their dwelling in the City of London. It was not long after that I was sent away from thence to the Vniversity of Oxford ..." John Bodley was granted permission to leave Geneva on 5 September 1559, about three weeks after Miles Coverdale had received similar permission, and Thomas was entered at Magdalen Hall the same year. Others stayed behind to complete the translation which appeared with a prefatory epistle dated from Geneva 10 April 1560 (STC 2093). It bore all the hallmarks of humanist printing. It was in a smaller quarto format than most previous Bibles, was the first English version to use Roman type and to be divided into verses. On 8 January 1561 the Patent Rolls (3 Eliz. part 13 (no. 975) m. 34 record the "Licence for seven years to John Bodeleigh to print the English Bible with annotations faithfully translated and finished in the present year AD 1560 and dedicated to the Queen". A second edition appeared in 1562 (STC 2095). In reality Bodley acted as importer and publisher rather than printer as the Bibles distributed by John Bodley were printed in Geneva. Editions are known printed by M.Blanchier in 1557 Rowland Hall in 1559 and 1560, John Crispin in 1569 and 1570. More details can be found in the English Short Title Catalogue website.

Already in 1565 Bodley was applying for an extension of twelve years. Archbishop Parker and Bishop Grindall of London wrote to Sir William Cecil that they supported this. They wrote: "... we thinke so well of the first impression, and reviewe of those whiche have sitens travailed therin, that we wishe it wold please you to be a meane that twelve yeres longer terme maye by speciall privilege graunted him in consideracion of the charges by him and his associats in the first impression, and the reviewe sithens, susteyned." Nothing appear to have come of this, perhaps because some of the more extreme puritanical annotations had displeased the Queen. Not until Christopher Barker acquired the privilege in 1576 did a regular series of editions begin to appear (STC 2117 etc).

The effect of all these changes on the life of the typical parish church can be gleaned from an examination of sources such as churchwardens' accounts for the period. Those for the parish of Morebath on the Devon and Somerset border are especially interesting as they are very full and kept for the period 1520 to 1573 by one man, the vicar Christopher Trychay.

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John Bodley's Timeline

Exeter, Devon, UK
March 2, 1544
Age 26
Exeter, Devon, England
Age 33
Exeter, Devon, England, United Kingdom
August 17, 1557
Age 39
October 13, 1591
Age 73
England, United Kingdom