Thursday, June 23, 2011

426-Year-Old Bible Found in Vault

426-year-old Bible. Photo courtesy: Yahoo!News

A rare find at the Windsor Public Library has produced a 426-year-old Bible, the oldest book in the collection by about 200 years and among the oldest books in Essex County.

A copy of the caramel brown, wood-bound Holy Bible "conteining the Olde Testament and the Newe, Authorised and appointed to be read in Churches" boasts a Gothic-style font and some hand scribblings on a few pages.

A hand-written note on one page suggests the big book was once worth "30 guineas," an old British coin.

"I had heard there was a rare book in our vault so I decided to go downstairs and look for it," said Tom Vajdik, genealogy and local history librarian at the main branch of the Windsor Public Library.

"I actually found a rare 1585 Bible that was printed by Charles Barker, who was a printer to her majesty Queen Elizabeth I."

The large volume, about the size of a small drawer, is outlined with gilt rolls and floral decorations.

It is likely worth between $9,000 and $24,000, according to online estimates on rare-book sites, Vajdik said.

"It was printed on a printing press, such as the one Gutenberg used, so it would have used movable type," Vajdik said.

"It was printed on very good paper, probably rag-content paper, not the cheap paper that they use today."

Library officials handle the Catholic book only while wearing white gloves, so acid from fingers does not damage the pages, but that doesn't mean local book lovers won't get a chance to see the impressive old tome.

"This is an extremely extraordinary find for us," library chairman and city councillor Al Maghnieh said after examining The Holy Bible with a magnifying glass. "We have a lot of patrons who are interested in rich history, so this is quite an asset to have."

Maghnieh said the book must be evaluated and insured first, but that he hopes it will soon proudly sit on display, with proper security.

"I anticipate that this will be a major attraction to the library," he said. "We're very excited about it."

The discovery three weeks ago does not end the search, however. In some ways, it only starts it.

Brief records show that the book was donated to the library in 1920 by a Mrs. Bennett, who lived in the Park Street Apartments. Library officials now hope to find a relative of Mrs. Bennett who may shed more light on the book's provenance.

"We definitely hope that someone knows who Mrs. Bennett was," Maghnieh said. "There are a lot of unanswered questions that we need to get in order maximize the historical benefit of this book."

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