Bedwell was educated at St John's College, Cambridge. He served the Anglican Church as Rector of St Ethelburga's Bishopsgate and Vicar of All Hallows, Tottenham (known at the time as Tottenham High Cross) from 1607. He was the author of the first local history of the area, A Briefe Description of the Towne of Tottenham.
He published in quarto an edition of the Epistles of John in Arabic, with a Latin version, printed by the Raphelengius family at Antwerp in 1612. He also left many Arabic manuscripts to the University of Cambridge and a font of type for printing them. According to McClure, it was Bedwell, and not Thomas Van Erpen, who was the first to revive the study of Arabic literature in Europe. His uncompleted preparations for an Arabic Lexicon were eclipsed by the publication of a similar work by Jacobus Golius in 1653. He asserted that knowledge of Arabic was necessary to a deeper understanding of ancient Hebrew. Bedwell's manuscripts were loaned, following his death, to the University of Cambridge, where they were consulted by Edmund Castell during the creation of the monumental Lexicon Heptaglotton (1669). Another manuscript, for a Dictionary of Persian, was in the possession of William Laud, Archbishop of Canterbury, and now resides at the Bodleian Library. Besides his Arabic Epistles of John, his most well-known published work was A Discovery of the Impostures of Mahomet and of the Koran, (1615). He was among the "First Westminster Company" charged by James I of England with the translation of the first 12 books of the King James Version of the Bible.
Bedwell also invented a ruler for geometrical purposes, similar to the Gunter's scale. He died at his vicarage at the age of 72.
- "Bedwell, William (BDWL578W)". A Cambridge Alumni Database. University of Cambridge.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica. 27 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 92. .
- British History Online, quoting the Dictionary of National Biography
- Bobrick, Benson. (2001). Wide as the waters: the story of the English Bible and the revolution it inspired. New York:Simon and Schuster. p. 223. ISBN 0-684-84747-7.
- McClure, Alexander. (1858) The Translators Revived: A Biographical Memoir of the Authors of the English Version of the Holy Bible. Mobile, Alabama: R. E. Publications (republished by the Marantha Bible Society, 1984 ASIN B0006YJPI8 )
- Nicolson, Adam. (2003) God's Secretaries: The Making of the King James Bible. New York: HarperCollins ISBN 0-06-095975-4
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