Alexander the Corrector
April 3, 2005 10:03 AM   Subscribe

The Man Who Unwrote the Bible. In the mid-1720s, Alexander Cruden took on a self-imposed task of Herculean proportions: he decided to compile the most thorough concordance of the King James Version of the Bible (777,746 words). The first edition of Cruden's Concordance was published in 1737. Every similar undertaking before or since has been the work of a vast team of people. Cruden worked alone in his lodgings, writing the whole thing out by hand. Cruden's day job was as a "Corrector of the Press" (proofreader). He would give hawk-eyed attention to prose all day long. Then he would come home at night to read the Bible—stopping at every single word to secure the right sheet from the tens of thousands of pieces of paper all around him and to record accurately the reference in its appropriate place. He had no patron, no publisher, no financial backers: his only commission was a divine one.
Cruden's Concordance has never been out of print. A new book tells the tale of Alexander the Corrector's bizarre, sad life (scroll down to about half page).
posted by matteo (10 comments total)
Sounds like a fascinating character. Too bad the reviewer is quite lukewarm on the book.

Nice post yet again, matteo. This kind is why I hang out here.
posted by pmurray63 at 11:04 AM on April 3, 2005

Thankyou matteo for this interesting post.
I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of Alexander the Corrector previously. That my catholic days are well behind me may have something to do with it I suppose.
Yes, the 2 reviews of the biography were less than enthusiastic despite acknowledgement that she (Julia Keay) had explicated certain features of his life that had not been known before.
Cruden had an odd life. I kind of feel sorry for him - he must have been close to being 'mad' if not simply possessing a significant personality disorder. At least his Concordance was well received before his death. His devotion to his great work is inspirational - what one lonely person is capable of achieving.
It's a bit of a religious week!
posted by peacay at 11:59 AM on April 3, 2005

Excellent post.
posted by Turtle at 12:55 PM on April 3, 2005

What a fascinating character! And I had never heard of the concordance. Thanks for a great post, matteo!
posted by deborah at 12:56 PM on April 3, 2005

Great story. Wonder if he had any friends
posted by Doof at 2:51 PM on April 3, 2005

And the Lord said "Let there be grep!" and it was good. I'd never heard of this sort of scholarship. Is there more to his labor that text search wouldn't accomplish today?
posted by roue at 4:10 PM on April 3, 2005

I'm not sure why I hadn't heard of Alexander the Corrector previously. That my catholic days are well behind me may have something to do with it I suppose.

The King James Version is primarily used by Protestants, so it's not entirely surprising that you hadn't heard of Cruden's Concordence (I hadn't either).
posted by pmurray63 at 4:41 PM on April 3, 2005

Reminds me of the poor monks working in low light to copy and illuminate personal bibles for duchesses and such. Cool post, thanks.

Turtle: teehee.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 5:49 PM on April 3, 2005

A concordance (or text search) is certainly valuable, but what interests me more is what the original language word that was used. (Remember, what we have now is a translation). For example, where English has one word "love", Koine Greek had at least 5 words - each with a different flavor. It is important to know the flavor to get the full understanding of the original writer. For example, 1 Cor. 13 is often called the "love" chapter and read at weddings, so people assume it is talking about romantic love. But it is the Greek word "Agapé", which is "love on principle" - in other words love that is displayed whether or not your emotions would not lead you to act in that way. (Still appropriate for weddings, but a different spin than most people bring to hearing it). Strong's Concordance keys each KJ word to a number that you can use to look up the entry in Hebrew & Greek dictionaries in the back of the book.
posted by spock at 6:41 AM on April 4, 2005

just remember : a modern day Cruden would be prescribed mindblanking drugs for being a sociopath -- and then again, so would a modern day Jesus... "get off you hippie! go to college! welcome to reality! freedom aint cheap." Great link, interesting guy.
posted by Satapher at 4:55 PM on April 4, 2005

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