The University Record, December 4, 2000

Library showcases Bible milestones

By Joanne Nesbit
News and Information Services

Illustration from the Bishops’ Bible (London, 1574), originally appearing at the beginning of the Gospel of Luke. It was scanned by the Michigan Papyri Digitization Project. Courtesy University Library
From ancient manuscripts to early printed books, the history of the Bible’s text spans nations, peoples and languages. This history is the showcase of “From Papyri to King James: The Evolution of the English Bible,” an exhibition prepared by the Special Collections Library, running through Jan. 31.

Bibles and other religious works dating to the year 119, including the earliest known copy of the letters of St. Paul, demonstrate the evolution of works on papyrus, parchment and paper that led to the English translation of 1611 known as the King James Bible.

Fragments on papyri from Deuteronomy and Matthew, portions from several of the letters of Paul and writings of early church leaders such as Melito, the Bishop of Sarids and Hermas of Rome, are part of the exhibition. Also included are medieval versions of Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible of 404, first appearances in print of the Greek and Latin biblical texts, and early translations into English.

Many of the Bibles on display are opened to the same passage, providing an opportunity to compare translations and to observe developments in languages, handwriting and type designs. The exhibition illustrates the development of the codex and presents a brief study of 16th-century English political history through the inclusion of the Tyndale, Coverdale, Geneva, Douay, Great and Bishops’ Bibles.

The free exhibition is open 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday and 10 a.m.–noon Saturday on the seventh floor of the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. (The exhibition and the Library will be closed Dec. 23–Jan. 1.) Guided group tours are available by calling (734) 764-9377 for an appointment.