The Davidson Library Dept. of Special Collections is hosting a new exhibit featuring 19 Bibles in various languages dating from the 13th to 17th centuries.
“Framing the Word: The Making of the Modern Bible, c. 1250-1611” is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. until July 15 and holds extended hours to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays until June 8. The department will host a free conference in relation to the exhibit at 1 p.m. tomorrow in the McCune Conference Room featuring guest professors Richard Rouse, Theodor Dunkelgrum, Bonnie Noble and Lori Anne Ferrell.
According to exhibit curator and history professor Sharon Farmer, the displays are part of the library’s collection of historic Bible-related scriptures.
“I figured out that I could construct a limited search on the library’s online Pegasus catalogue to find Bibles published between the years 1,000 and 1,600 that were located in Special Collections,” Farmer said in an e-mail. “When I got 100 hits on my first search, I had my breath knocked out of me — especially when I realized that those 100 volumes included four medieval Bible manuscripts, around a dozen early printed books, an original Martin Luther Bible, a 1613 King James Bible [and] an early Greek Bible published by Erasmus.”
Farmer said the exhibit sheds light on the Bible’s development over several centuries.
“It tells a great story about the Christian Bible,” Farmer said. “When and where a shift occurred from … separate manuscripts to including the entire Christian Bible all together in one single book, when and where the Bible first got chapter numbers and verse numbers [and] the consequences of the … rediscovery that the Biblical texts were originally written in Hebrew and Greek. Also, there are a lot of beautiful illustrations in these books and some semi-amusing stories, like how Moses got his horns and then lost them.”
Additionally, the event aims to educate community members about the institute’s vast quantity of rare literary works, Farmer said.
“When I asked my colleagues who study the 16th century if they were aware [of this collection], they said no,” Farmer said. “So I knew I needed to bring this valuable and beautiful collection to the attention of the scholarly community, the UCSB community and the public.”
According to university archivist and manuscripts curator David Gartrell, moving the texts required careful planning due to the documents’ fragility.
“For most of the larger volumes, I worked with the University Art Museum to have custom acrylic book cradles made for them,” Gartrell said. “This was important because each book has unique needs in terms of support and how far the binding allows the book to be opened. I am changing the pages displayed in each book at the beginning of every week so visitors can come back more than once and see different images and texts. Weekly page-turning is also a preservation measure; I don’t want each page exposed to light any more than is necessary.”
Gartrell said the display is receiving significant recognition throughout the academic community.
“The exhibit is already drawing a lot of visitors, as well as interest from other faculty in using our materials,” Gartrell said. “Students will likely appreciate the exhibit for its combination of scholarship, history and just the sheer beauty of some of these works.”