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Bible Collection

Date range: 15th-20th centuries

Medium: Printed

Number of items: 10,000 items.

The Bible Collection at John Rylands Library is one of the finest in the world, spanning six centuries and more than 400 different languages and dialects. It originated with Enriqueta Rylands’ foundation purchases for the John Rylands Library from 1891, was greatly expanded with additions from the Spencer collection and today is of major importance for global scholarship.

The earliest printed editions in this dispersed collection are the 42-line or Gutenberg Bible, printed at Mainz in c.1455, and the even rarer 36-line Bible printed at Bamberg in 1458-60.

There are nearly 100 editions of the authorised Roman Catholic Bible in Latin (Vulgate) printed before 1500 in the collection, together with first editions in virtually every language. In addition, the John Rylands Library holds the four great Polyglots of the 16th and 17th centuries, six editions of the Erasmian New Testament and a complete conspectus of the history of the English text from Tyndale to the present day. Numerous missionary printings of the Bible draw heavily on the publications of the British and Foreign Bible Society.

In the 1930s Mrs Ernest Hartland of Chepstow donated 2,000 Bibles and 1,500 miscellaneous volumes, including 32 incunabula, in memory of her late husband. Mr Hartland had, in his turn, absorbed the library of Walter A. Copinger, Professor of Law at Owens College from 1892 until his death in 1910.

See also:

Further information:

  • Recorded in Library Search.
  • Richard Lovett, The English Bible in the John Rylands Library (Manchester, 1899).
  • John Rylands Library, Catalogue of an exhibition illustrating the history of the transmission of the Bible (Manchester, 1935).
  • For the Hartland collection see note in Bulletin of the John Rylands Library, vol. 20 (1935), pp. 176-8.


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