Samuel Ward and the King James Bible

Is Sidney manuscript the earliest surviving draft of seventeenth-century translation?

In 2011, the 400th anniversary year of its publication, Sidney Sussex celebrated its connections to the extraordinary translation project known as the King James Bible. Two of the College’s former Masters, James Montagu and Samuel Ward, were part of a team of Cambridge-based scholars who worked on producing the new ‘Authorised’ text.

Those connections between Sidney and the finished work, then, have long been well known. But it seems that a collection of Ward’s papers, housed in the College’s Muniment Room, might have been hiding important clues as to the process of translation.  Jeffrey Alan Miller, Assistant Professor of English at Montclair State University, has identified in Ward’s hand what could be the very earliest extant translation of a part of the Bible, shedding new light on the decision making processes of the translators.

Ward had been selected for the task alongside Sidney’s first Master James Montagu, and came to Sidney Sussex in 1610 to take up the post of Master after Montagu’s successor had died in late 1609. He held office across an extraordinary period in British history, which saw him active at the Synod of Dort in 1618 and in resisting the so-called Laudian reforms to the Church of England in the 1630s that encouraged several Cambridge scholars to migrate to America. Ward died in office in 1643, imprisoned in neighbouring St. John’s for opposing that infamous son of Sidney, Oliver Cromwell.

Jeffrey Alan Miller describes his research, and its significance for our understandings of the period, in the Times Literary Supplement.



Richard Humphreys (2009) Sidney Sussex: A History (Sidney Sussex College)

Richard Humphreys, Secret Sidney - A Brief Historical Sketch

For further information please contact the Fellow Communications Officer, Dr Tom Lambert (

This is an archived news story first posted in November, 2015