Purver, Anthony (DNB00)

PURVER, ANTHONY (1702–1777), translator of the bible, born in 1702, was son of a farmer at Hurstbourne, near Whitchurch, Hampshire. He showed much promise as a pupil at the village school; and, while serving as apprentice to a shoemaker, who was also a farmer, fell to studying Hebrew, after reading the ‘Rusticus ad Academicos’ of Samuel Fisher [q. v.] At twenty years of age he opened a school, but gave it up after three or four years to come to London, where he published his ‘Youth's Delight,’ 1727, continued his study of Hebrew, and became a quaker. About 1733 he began translating the Old Testament, an undertaking which occupied him at intervals for the rest of his life. He preached to quakers' meetings in London, Essex, and elsewhere; but about 1739 he married Rachell Cotterel, mistress of a girls' boarding-school at Frenchay, Gloucestershire, and, moving thither, recommenced teaching. In 1758 he returned to Hampshire, and died at Andover in July 1777, being buried in the Friends' burial-ground there.

About 1742, when Purver had completed his rendering of the book of Esther, the Song of Solomon, and some of the minor prophets, he induced the Bristol printer, Felix Farley, to issue his translation, entitled ‘Opus in Sacra Biblia elaboratum,’ in parts. Dr. John Fothergill [q. v.] recommended the venture in an advertisement in the ‘Gentleman's Magazine’ for 1746, but it met with insufficient support, and only a few numbers appeared. In 1763 Purver had completed the translation of all the books of both the Old and New Testament. Fothergill gave him 1,000l. for the copyright, and published at his own expense ‘A New and Literal Translation of all the Books of the Old and New Testament; with Notes critical and explanatory. By Anthony Purver,’ in 2 vols., London, folio, 1764.

Purver claimed to execute his translation, which was known as the ‘quakers' bible,’ under divine instruction. On arriving at a difficult passage, he would shut himself up for two or three days and nights, waiting for inspiration. He accepted the theory of the divine inspiration of the scriptures in its most literal form. Alexander Geddes [q. v.], the rationalist, condemned his work as a ‘crude, incondite, and unshapely pile, without order, symmetry, or taste;’ but Southey and other critics have preferred several of his renderings to those of the authorised version, and have commended his chronology, tables, and notes. Purver's only other publication, besides a popular broadside entitled ‘Counsel to Friends' Children’ (6th edit. 1785), was a ‘Poem to the Praise of God,’ 1748, large fol.

[Chalmers's Biogr. Dict. xxv. 385; Nichols's Lit. Anecd. ix. 739; Friends' Magazine, February 1831, ii. 49; Notes and Queries, 2nd ser. iii. 108, 156; Southey's Omniana, p. 57; Orme's Bibl. Biblica, p. 364; Cotton's Editions of the Bible in English, pp. 96, 207, 238, 259, 273; Memoirs of F. J. Post, p. 409; Woodward's Hist. of Hampshire, iii. 285 n.; Smith's Catalogue of Friends' Books, ii. 437; Gent. Mag. 1817, i. 510; Hartley Coleridge's Biographia Borealis, p. 717 art. ‘Fothergill;’ Cruttwell's Preface to Bishop Wilson's Annotated Bible, 1785; Friends' Quarterly Examiner, x. 557.]

C. F. S.