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Bibles collection (16th-20th C.)


A notable collection of British and continental early printed Bibles. The English section includes most of the key editions of the English Bible over three centuries. Amongst these are works that created major religious controversies in their day, from Coverdale’s early translation to the later ‘authorised’ Bible.

Important editions include: the Geneva Bible, often known as the ‘Breeches’ Bible owing to its use of this term in Genesis Chapter 3, first published in 1560 by Protestant exiles in Calvinist Geneva; the first issue of the Bishops’ Bible (alias the Treacle Bible or Gentlemen’s Bible) dated 1568, a revision of the Coverdale’s Great Bible by Bishops and Biblical scholars who disapproved of the Geneva translation; and, from the other side of the religious divide, a fourth edition of the Rheims New Testament (1633), prepared by theologians at the College at Rheims, the centre of English Catholicism in exile during Elizabeth's restoration of Protestantism. This latter translation was the first Roman Catholic version in English.  

The continental section comprises many valuable items, such as a Latin Bible published in Nuremberg in 1478 by the renowned German printer Anton Koberger and originally owned by William Morris. Other works of interest include a richly annotated reprint of Bebel’s Greek New Testament of 1524. It was edited by Conrad Pellican, and has a preface by Oecolampadius, the German reformer. There is also an early 17th century copy of Xantis Pagnini's interlinear Hebrew-Latin Bible originally published in 1528. Pagnini's translation and his Hebrew lexical and grammatical work were extremely influential in the area of Biblical scholarship for many years. As well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew texts, there are also versions in Dutch (such as Henrik Peetersen van Middelborch's Den Bibel, published in Antwerp in 1541); French (e.g. Pierre Robert Olivetan, La Bible, published in Amsterdam, 1635); German (e.g. Johann Dietenberger's translation published in 1550 in Cologne); Italian (e.g. Antonio Brucioli, La Biblia, Venice, 1538); and a rare first edition of the whole Bible in Romansch published in Basel in 1552.

Several items in the collection are illustrated with fine woodcuts or copperplate engravings. It also includes several editions of the Bible with study aids. Amongst these are a number of late 18th, early 19th century Bibles with English translations of exegetical notes by the Swiss theologian Jean Frederic Ostervald and commentaries by the ever popular English divine Matthew Henry.

A related collection, in the Salisbury Library, comprises almost every edition of the Bible published in Welsh or in Wales, plus a range of some of the earliest Bibles in other Celtic languages. Several books were used as family bibles and list detailed records of births, deaths and marriages within a particular family.

Date range: 15th-20th century.

Significance: Of significance in the United Kingdom and Europe.

Strengths: Welsh Bibles, English Bibles, Reformation Bibles.

Size: c. 1,000 volumes overall.

Languages: English, Latin, Greek, German, Italian, Welsh, Gaelic, Breton, Cornish, Manx

Keywords: Bible, Welsh Bibles, English Bibles, Polyglot Bibles

Notes: Having been heavily used over several centuries, many of the Bibles are in poor physical condition.