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Nicholaus Brylinger, Bibell. Das ist alle bücher allts vn[d] neüws Testaments, auß Hebreischer vnd Griechischer jhren vrsprünglichen sprachen mit allem fleiß vnd auffs aller treüwlichest verteütschet (Basel, 1552)

A notable collection of Welsh, English and Continental early printed Bibles.

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.

Almost every edition of the Bible published in Welsh or published in Wales is included, as well as the Book of Common Prayer, Psalms, etc., when separately published. The first work is dated 1567, and the collection includes modern versions of the Bible in Welsh also.

The oldest work is an original but incomplete copy of William Salesbury’s 1567 translation of the New Testament. Important not only for being the first Welsh version of Scripture, the 1567 New Testament is notable for Salesbury’s idiosyncratic orthography and Richard Davies’ lengthy introductory letter to the people of Wales. In his address, Davies, the Bishop of St David’s, argues that the Protestant religion will restore to the Welsh people their ancient Church, unsullied by Rome. The 1567 Book of Common Prayer and Psalter, to which Salesbury also contributed, is available in facsimile. William Morgan’s hugely influential 1588 Welsh translation of the complete Bible is held in both original and facsimile form.

Other versions of the Welsh Bible in the collection include:

  • Richard Parry and Dr John Davies’s 1620 revision of Morgan’s Bible;
  • the 1630 ‘Beibl Bach’, the first popular edition of the Welsh Bible;
  • a 1647 New Testament often regarded as being the first translated for Nonconformists;
  • Moses Williams’ Bible of 1717, the first Welsh Bible to be published by the S.P.C.K.;
  • Peter Williams’ 1770 Bible, the first Welsh Bible to be published with a commentary and the first to be published in Wales;
  • a bilingual New Testament published in 1831 which contains the Welsh and English texts in parallel columns.

Of great significance is the collection’s copy of Cyd-gordiad egqyddorawl o’r scrythurau (1730). This is the earliest concordance to be printed in Welsh, and the second Welsh book printed in the USA. The copy is complete and in the original American calf binding.

A range of Bibles published in other Celtic languages is also held. The collection includes:

  • a copy of the 2011 Cornish Bible;
  • several editions of the New Testament and Bible in Breton, including the first printing of the New Testament into Breton, by Le Gonidec, revised by Rev. T. Price (Carnhuanawc of Crickhowell);
  • an 1819 edition of the Manx Bible and a late 20th century Manx Family Bible;
  • Scottish Gaelic New Testaments and Bibles, including a 1783 translation of the Old Testament from the Hebrew prepared under the auspices of the Scottish S.P.C.K.
  • an Irish Old Testament in the Collection is inscribed with a lengthy note by E. C. Quiggin which describes the provenance of this copy. The inscription claims it is one of 200 copies sent to Scotland by the Hon. Robert Boyle, son of the Earl of Cork, in 1688 for the use of Highland clergy (of which possibly only 80 were actually distributed and few are known to have survived).

The Cardiff Rare Books collection includes most of the key English editions of the 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 English 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;
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 and 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.

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