Gustav Vasa Bible
The Gustav Vasa Bible is the common name of the Swedish Bible translation published in 1540-41. The full title is: Biblia / Thet är / All then Helgha Scrifft / på Swensko. Translated into English it reads: “The Bible / That is / All the Holy Scripture / In Swedish”.
The translation of the scriptures into the Swedish language began in 1526 when the priest Olaus Petri and Laurentius Andreae translated the New Testament. Their translation was based on Erasmus Greek editions (1516-1522) as compared with Luther’s New Testament (1522) and a few Latin translations. Fifteen years later Olaus Petri’s brother, Laurentius Petri, completed the translation of the Old Testament (wherein he carefully followed the Luther Bible). However, had the work not been commissioned by the Swedish King Gustav Vasa, who had in effect broken with the Pope in Rome in the 1520s, the work would not have been possible.
The Bible follows the German version by Martin Luther from 1534 closely, not only in language, but in the fonts used and the typography as a whole. The Danish version, printed a few years later, also did this.
The Swedish people were averse to the use of foreign loan words and dialect forms, and the first Swedish Bible provided simplified and standardized spelling that served to create a unified national Swedish language. The style was taciturn and terse, and there were also some explanations of the text supplied in the margins (especially in the most widely read books, that is, Psalms, Prophets, Ecclesiasticus, Matthew and Romans). It established a uniform spelling of words, particularly the infinitive ending -a instead of the more Danish-sounding -e, and defined the use of the vowels å, ä and ö. It did use th for /ð/, as in English, as is apparent on the title page; but this eventually changed to d.
This Bible text was, with revisions, basically the only Swedish Bible used before 1917. It was reprinted as a facsimile in 1938 and 1960. Few people today, however, are able to read the text with ease. This has to do partly with the spelling and partly with the typeface.