Close up, Oxford's Coronation Bible


Oxford is behind the splendid King Charles III Coronation Bible that will be used on 6 May

Published: 24 April 2023


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Oxford University Press (OUP) was commissioned by the Archbishop of Canterbury to produce the Coronation Bible to be used by His Majesty King Charles III at Westminster Abbey on 6 May 2023.

The Coronation Bible (pictured) will play a significant role in the ceremony, with the King set to place his hand upon it while reciting the Coronation Oath.

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OUP has had the honour of producing Coronation Bibles for some recent British monarchs—most recently for His Majesty’s mother, Queen Elizabeth II, in 1953, and originally for Edward VII in 1902.

The Bible produced for His Majesty's Coronation will feature typesetting based on the Quatercentenary Edition of the King James Authorized Version, published by OUP to mark the 400th anniversary in 2011. The Quatercentenary Edition was chosen for the Coronation to celebrate the significance of the translation, as well as to highlight its pivotal role in the histories both of the English language and of the United Kingdom.

Hand-bound in leather and decorated in gold leaf by renowned bookbinding company, Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, the intricate design of the binding—a collaboration between OUP and the binders—draws inspiration from both historic Coronation Bibles and His Majesty's love of the natural world.

OUP has a long history of bible publishing. In 1675 it was granted the right to print the King James Authorized Version of the Bible which, in 1611, was commissioned by King James VI and I to be translated from the original Greek and Hebrew by some of the country’s leading biblical scholars. The first recorded use of an Oxford Bible was at the Coronation of George III in 1761.

Coronation Bible Spine, by OUP

Nigel Portwood, CEO of Oxford University Press, said: 'We are honoured that the Archbishop of Canterbury chose OUP to produce the Bible for His Majesty's Coronation. At OUP, we are incredibly proud of our long history of bible production, dating back to the seventeenth century and forming the basis of our publishing activities for the years that followed. This Bible is an example of the fine craftsmanship and attention to detail of the Press and our colleagues at Shepherds, Sangorski & Sutcliffe, and CPI Printers. We are confident that it will be a fitting tribute to a momentous occasion in British history and we hope it will be cherished by His Majesty for many years to come.'

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, said: ‘On this momentous occasion, the Bible will be the first, and most important, gift offered to The King. The Scriptures offer a guide and light to all – and I pray these living words will offer strength and encouragement to His Majesty.’

The Coronation Bible used in the service will be retained by the Archbishop of Canterbury and placed in Lambeth Palace’s archive. OUP will then produce three identical copies; the King’s personal copy, which will be given to him as a gift, and a further two to be placed in the archives of Westminster Abbey and Oxford University Press’s head office in Oxford.

Picture credits: Lambeth Palace/Neil Turner. Picture caption of the main image of people: The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, with the Coronation Bible for King Charles III accompanied by (left to right) Alison Strachan, Managing Director of Shepherd’s, Sangorski and Sutcliffe of Westminster, Paul Lansdowne, UK Manufacturing Manager at Oxford University Press, Claire Dickinson, Design manager at Oxford University Press Nigel Portwood CEO of Oxford University Press and Tom Perridge, Senior Acquisition Editor Religion at Oxford University Press in the Lambeth Palace Chapel, London, 20 April 2023. 

To celebrate the 2023 Coronation, OUP has also published an illustrated edition of the Authorized King James Bible, including a special commemorative gifting bookplate, colour images, and traditional colour illustrations. This is available for purchase here.

About Oxford University Press

Oxford University Press (OUP) is a department of the University of Oxford. It furthers the University's objective of excellence in research, scholarship, and education by publishing worldwide. OUP is the world's largest university press with the widest global presence.