27 April 2011
The development of the Bible, from second-century papyrus fragments to the private press editions illustrated by Eric Gill, is illustrated through sixty outstanding examples from one of the finest collections in the world in a new book.
Drawing on Oxford’s exceptional collection of Bibles, the celebrated historian Christopher de Hamel has arranged the Bibles into themed chapters presented chronologically. Each chapter opens with an elegant introduction providing a concise overview and clear picture of the development of the Bible through the ages. Every Bible is beautifully illustrated on a double page spread, accompanied by an explanation, giving the reader a glimpse of the historical progression of the greatest bestseller of all time over eighteen centuries.
Some of the better known examples include the Kennicott Bible, the Gutenberg Bible and the King James Bible, though one of the great joys of this book is the number of unusual texts it shows, some of which have never been seen in print before, such as the earliest surviving gospels in Coptic or an ancient Ethiopic Psalter which opens with an illustration of King David as an exotic Ethiopian prince holding aloft a lyre.
Christopher de Hamel explores the history of the Bible in Britain – the English Vulgate Acts of the Apostles, Thomas Becket’s Bible – within the wider context of its general history and origins in the Middle East and the Mediterranean. He also demonstrates, through careful a selection of texts, the movement and dissemination of the Bible northwards through Europe, east to Armenia, and west to the Americas, as well as its gradual translation into vernacular languages.
The illustrations range from fragile fragments through to dense early printed texts with their woodcut pictures, and the most highly decorated illuminated manuscripts, like the Gospel Book from Ranshofen Abbey and the Winchester Cathedral Priory Bible – objects of incredible luxury and detail.