On May 2, 2011 it will be 400 years since the Authorized Version (often referred to as the King James Version) of the Bible was first published. To mark this, you can even get a widget to add to blogs and websites to give you a countdown to the anniversary. An odd juxtaposition of high tech and heritage.
The AV wasn't the first translation of the Bible into the common tongue of people living in England (calling it English might be a bit misleading!) Parts of the Bible had been translated into vernacular going back to the time of the Venerable Bede, and the first full translation into English was completed by Wyclif in the 14th century. The first printed Bible in English was the Coverdale Bible of 1535, which in turn drew on Tyndale's earlier translation work. In fact Tyndale's Bible is regarded as the main foundation for what became known as the AV.
What distinguishes the AV is that it not only had official sanction (earlier versions had also received that), it was the widespread acceptance as the definitive translation of its era. Along with the Book of Common Prayer and the plays of Shakespeare, it shaped the English language, and gave us many phrases that continue to be used to this day. It also shaped the style and form of English used in subsequent translations, such as the Revised Standard Version and New International Version.
More recent translations have access to older manuscripts and greater scope of scholarship, and are certainly more understandable for the modern-day reader in English. However, even if you regard it as a piece of English literature and no more, it has to be acknowledged that it is a tremendous piece of work.
Read more about the celebrations here http://www.2011trust.org/