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A common edition: from the 5th century AD

St Jerome's Latin text of the Bible (with the Old Testament translated from the original Hebrew, instead of at one remove through the Greek of the Septuagint) is complete by about AD 405. In subsequent years Latin-speaking Christians read some of the biblical books in Jerome's text and others in rival versions. Not until the 6th century does the custom begin of binding all the biblical texts into a single volume - the Bible, Greek for the 'book'.

The texts most commonly bound together are almost entirely Jerome's. The collection becomes known as editio vulgata (the 'common edition'), referred to in English as the Vulgate.

Large numbers of biblical texts are needed in medieval monasteries, but each new Bible means an entire manuscript copied out by hand. Corruption of the text is inevitable, as old misreadings are repeated and new ones added. There is no solution to this problem until the arrival of printing.

The bishops of the Council of Trent, charged with safeguarding Catholic doctrine in the century after the European discovery of printing, see a golden opportunity. They sponsor an edition of the Vulgate, to be as free as possible of textual error. Published by Pope Clement VIII in 1592, and known as the Clementine Vulgate, it remains - until the vernacular reforms of the 20th century - the official Roman Catholic text of the Bible.

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