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Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni recently visited Long Library in order to share some interesting items from his personal collection of rare books and manuscripts. He was kind enough to loan some of these items to the library for exhibit. Library staff members thought this would also be a good opportunity to share some of the rare religious texts owned by the college with the campus community.

The exhibit is now installed in the First Floor (Main Entrance) gallery space of Long Library and can be viewed from March 11th-April 15th. Archive Intern, Mariaelena Garcia ’15, has aided in the selection, research, and display of these rare books. The following excerpt is the description she wrote to accompany the exhibit…

The Self-Interpreting Bible

Reverend John Brown created the Self- Interpreting Bible in 1778. The Bible on display is the sixth edition printed in 1815 in England. He was born in Perthshire Scotland in 1722. At the age of 12, he was orphaned and worked as a shepherd. Denied the opportunity to have a formal education, he taught himself how to read, including Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. After becoming deathly ill, he had a Christian revelation. In a letter he stated, “But thanks be to God, He passed upon me, and said unto me, ‘LIVE.”’ At that point in his life he converted to Christianity. It was this conversion that inspired him to publish Biblical texts, such as, The Self-Interpreting Bible.
The purpose of the Self Interpreting Bible was to allow others to read the Bible with commentary so that anyone who chose to read it would not only understand the written word wholly but also be able to interpret it into their own meaning. George Washington himself approved of John Brown’s bibles. He “subscribed,” or in other words donated, to Brown’s cause to have them published and printed when they first appeared in New York.
Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni has graciously allowed Wells College to display these rare religious texts. He has owned these volumes for many years and had them carefully restored in November of 2012.

The Book of Esther

Along with The Self-Interpreting Bible, Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni has loaned Wells this rare scroll to display. According to Bellinzoni, the scroll was originally purchased by N. Lansing Zabriske, on behalf of Temple Hollcroft, through a Jerusalem Art Dealer in the early 1900’s. The scroll was then passed to Lynn Kirtland, a classics professor at Wells, and then gifted to Professor Bellinzoni.
The Book of Esther is one of the books of the third part of the Old Testament: 1) Law or Torah, 2) Prophets, and 3) Writings.This book commemorates a Jewish day of redemption. Esther is a Jewish orphan who is chosen by the king to become the new queen. Esther, however, hides the fact that she is Jewish. Haman, the prime minster to the king, developed a plan to destroy all the Jews of the nation. It is during one of her banquets that Esther confesses to the king that she is Jewish and that Haman is planning to exterminate her people. While the king cannot change the original declaration allowing the event, he amends it so that the Jewish people can fight back. On the day of the attack the Jewish slaughtered seventy-five thousand Persians.
The holiday is now called Purim. On this day, the Jewish community gives gifts to each other, give charity to the poor, recite the book of Esther and enjoy a celebratory meal. This holiday is celebrated on the 14th day of the Hebrew month Adar.

1490 Book of Hours

The book of hours on display is from 1490. This year it is 523 years old. The words are written in dark brown ink on vellum.
Jean Bourdichon did all of the interior paintings. Bourdichon was a manuscript illuminator in the French court for the reigns of Louis XI King of France, Charles VIII of France, Louis XII of France and Francis I of France.
Women, as a way of keeping track of time, typically used a book of hours. A calendar in the book would have all the celebrations throughout the year. Important celebrations were written in red (which eventually became tradition on modern calendars). The purpose of these books was to, “transport one from the distracting cares of this world to the divine pleasures of the next.” Each book of hours was “customizable,” meaning you were allowed to write anything you deemed worthy in them.
The next part of a Book of Hours was usually a series of Gospel Lessons (New Testament bible) by the four evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). These readings were customarily read aloud at Christmas and on the feasts of the Annunciation, the Epiphany, and the Ascension.
The Book of Hours takes its name from its next part, the Hours of the Virgin. Considered the heart of the book, this is a series of eight prayers that, ideally, would be prayed throughout the course of the day. The Matins and Lauds would be prayed every day at night or upon rising. An hour of prayer would begin at 6:00 a.m. (‘Prime’), at 9:00 a.m. (‘Terce’), at noon (‘Sext’), at 3:00 p.m. (‘Nones’), sometime during the evening (‘Vespers’), and before sleep (‘Compline’).
The last section of the book is the Seven Penitential Psalms. It was believed that this section was written by the Biblical King David as penance for his sins of adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder. The psalms herein were linked to the “Seven Deadly Sins” of pride, covetousness, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. Praying the psalms was both a way to ask forgiveness for the dead in order to, hopefully, lessen their stay in purgatory and as a way for the living to avoid sin.

Mariaelena Garcia ‘15″

The images below show the display, along with some more detailed views of images included in the works. We would like to extend our thanks to Professor Emeritus Arthur Bellinzoni for loaning his personal copies of Rev.John Brown’s Self-Interpreting Bible and The Book of Esther. For more information, or to schedule a visit to the Wells College Archives, contact us at library@wells.edu.

Compiled by Lisa Hoff ’09 Reference, Instruction, and Outreach Librarian, Long Library & Mariaelena Garcia ’15, Archive Intern

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