Reformation Revisited

Friends of the Reformation Museum, GenevaWe were pleased to host a recent visit from the Friends of the Reformation Museum in Geneva at New College Library. The Friends were delighted to be able to view a selection of treasures from the Library’s Special Collections in the Funk Reading Room. These included Andrew Melville’s Bible, an early Greek New Testament, a Bassandyne Bible and a Geneva Bible. Their packed programme for the rest of the day included singing a psalm from the Wode Psalter in Greyfriar’s Kirk.

Christine Love-Rodgers – Academic Support Librarian, Divinity

Travel back 500 years with rare Hebrew book from New College Library

 Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman ... [1514]

Perush ha-Torah / leha-Rav rabenu Mosheh bar Nahman … [1514] פירוש התורה / להרב רבינו משה ב״ר נחמן.

This early commentary on the Pentateuch, published in 1514 has travelled all the way to Latvia to be part of the exhibition “1514. The Book. 2014“. On display until April 2015 at the National Library of Latvia, the exhibition includes 80 books published in 1514. Why 1514? The exhibition creators identified 1514 as a year of great change, 60 years after Gutenberg and on the cusp of the Reformation in Europe. The exhibition is “an opportunity to view the European cultural space in terms of a single year”.

The author, of this work, Perush-ha Torah,  was Rabbi Moses Ben Nahman or Nahmanides (1195-1270). He was a Spanish rabbi and leading scholar of Talmudic literature in the mediaeval period. This book is just one of the early works of Jewish scholarship in the Dalman-Christie collection of Hebrew books, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects at New College Library.  The Dalman-Christie Collection was transferred to New College Library in 1946 from the Church of Scotland Hospice in Jerusalem.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Dal-Chr 15r

Treasures of New College Library – Andrew Melville’s Bible

Knox 3

Biblia sacra utriusque Testamenti … [1529]. New Collegel Library, Knox 3.

One of the pleasures of being a librarian is the serendipity of discovering something special on the shelves whilst engaged in looking for something completely different. Whilst looking at materials about the Congregational Church in New College Library’s Special Collections recently, I came across this sixteenth-century Bible on an adjacent shelf. Manuscript notes attribute it to be ‘Andrew Melville’s Bible’, and the title page is certainly signed “A. Melville.”

John Knox Loan 3vr

This item is part of a small collection which at one time was housed at John Knox House in Edinburgh, although our provenance documentation records the ownership as being Church of Scotland.

Born on 1 August 1545 Andrew Melville (1545–1622), theologian, Biblical scholar and Presbyterian leader, had a scholarly career as Principal of Glasgow Unviersity and Principal of St Mary’s College, St Andrews University. He followed in the footsteps of John Knox as a defender of Reformation and Presbyterian principles, which at times set him in opposition with King James I of England and VI of Scotland.

James Kirk, ‘Melville, Andrew  (1545–1622)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 24 July 2014]

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity

Picture puzzles from the Paterson Bible Collection at New College Library

I’m delighted to be able to report that all 278 items in the Paterson Bible Collection at New College Library are now catalogued online. This collection turned up a number of surprises for us along the way, not least the number of items that are not Bibles. In a previous blog post about this collection, I mentioned how it represents the life and work of its collector, John Paterson (1776–1855)  a Glasgow trained missionary for
the Congregational Church, who served throughout northern Europe.

PAT 215We were intrigued by this 1727 Book of Common Prayer (PAT 215) because of its fine binding with a fish and crown design. We haven’t discovered the significance of this design and would be interested if anyone could tell us?

PAT 216PAT 216









We loved the beautiful illustrations in this book (PAT 216) in Danish and Latin on the Sami and Finnmark fylke (1767). Perhaps Paterson acquired this book in the early years of the nineteenth century, when he worked with the Swedish and Finnish Bible Societies translating the Bible into Finnish, Icelandic, Sami, Samogitian, and Swedish.

PAT 224We were surprised by the graphic woodcut illustrations in De sanctorum martyrum cruciatibus by Antonio Galliano, (1660, PAT 224). This is a manual of methods of torture, persecution and martyrdom faced by the early Christian marytrs.

The cataloguing of this collection was made possible by the generous donation of the Rev. Dr Robert Funk.

Christine Love-Rodgers, Academic Support Librarian – Divinity & Janice Gailani, Funk Projects Cataloguer



Missionary to the North – The Paterson Bible Collection

Testamente nutak : Kaladlin okauzeennut nuktersimarsok. Copenhagen, 1799. New College Library PAT 53

Testamente nutak : Kaladlin okauzeennut nuktersimarsok [Eskimo Bible]. Copenhagen, 1799. New College Library PAT 53

In early 2014 we began work to catalogue the Paterson Bible Collection, as part of the Funk Cataloguing Projects at New College Library. This collection of over 300 Bibles in a huge variety of languages and scripts represents the interests and life’s work of John Paterson (1776–1855). Paterson was a Glasgow trained missionary for the Congregational Church, who originally intended to serve in India but instead forged a career in northern Europe (1).

Bible. New Testament. Estonian

Piibli Ramat, se on keik se Jummala Sanna [Bible. New Testament. Estonian]. Peterburri Linnas, 1822. New College Library PAT 60

His work involved translating and printing portions of the scriptures into Finnish, Georgian, Icelandic, Sami, Latvian, Moldavian, Russian, Samogitian, and Swedish. First based in Sweden, where he founded the Finnish Bible Society, in 1812 Paterson moved to St Petersburg, where he was involved in the work of what became the Russian Bible Society.  In later life he returned to Scotland where he continued to be active in the Scottish Congregational Church, but was also involved with early attempts to produce Bibles for the blind, in a precursor of Braille writing (2).

Meije Issanda Jesusse Kristusse Wastne Testament [Bible. New Testament. Estonian]. Riga, 1686

Meije Issanda Jesusse Kristusse Wastne Testament [Bible. New Testament. Estonian]. Riga, 1686 New College Library PAT 58



The Paterson Bible Collection reflects the linguistic spectrum of his Northern European work, but also includes Bibles in languages as diverse as Amharic, Armenian and Ethiopian.  It was received by the National Bible Society of Scotland in 1957 from A. G. C. Baxter of Gilston, Largoward, Paterson’s descendant, and subsequently gifted  to New College Library in 1991.



(1) G. C. Boase, ‘Paterson, John (1776–1855)’, rev. H. C. G. Matthew, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, 2004 [, accessed 19 Feb 2014]

(2) Alexander, James M. (1974) ‘Title John Paterson, Bible Society Pioneer, 1776-1855.  The later years – 1813-1855, Records of the Scottish Church History Society, vol viii, p196.

Chinese rare books on display for Peking University at Edinburgh Day

Inglis-23New College Library was part of the University of Edinburgh’s Peking at Edinburgh day on Monday 18 November with a display of Chinese items from our Special Collections. These included the beautiful Mustard Seed Garden Manual of Painting (Inglis 23). This is a classic treatise of calligraphic art on silk, by calligraphers Wen-Yuan T’ang and Chin-Ch’ang in 1682.

Inglis 20Also on display was Robert Morrison’s Chinese New Testament (Inglis 20). Robert Morrison (1782–1834) arrived in China in September 1807, on the commission of the London Missionary Society first to learn Chinese, and then to make a Chinese translation of the Bible.


CSWCWe were also pleased to have on display a rare item from the Centre for the Study of World Christianity Archives, an Imperial Edition of the New Testament. Thank you to Dr Alexander Chow for providing this information about the item :

“This is a rare edition of the New Testament presented by a group of female missionaries to the Empress Dowager Cixi, on the occasion of her 60th birthday in 1894. The Bible is a Shangdi edition of the Delegates Version, printed in classical wenli Chinese by the American Bible Society. This particular copy was presented to the Church of Scotland missions hospital by the American Bible Society in October 1903. There were 250 copies of this Bible printed.”

In the beginning was the word : Bibles at New College Library

Yesterday we were pleased to welcome staff and students on exchange from Dartmouth College, USA to a classroom session viewing items from New College Library’s historic Bibles collection. Examples included a 1478 early Bible Latin manuscript version from our Incunabula Collection and our very earliest printed Bible, a Greek New Testament printed in Strassburg in 1524. The English Reformation was well represented by a Cranmer’s Bible (1541), a Matthew’s Bible (1549), a Bishop’s Bible (1585),  a 1599 Geneva Bible and a 1611 King James version.

Our 1579 Bassandyne Bible has particular Scottish significance. Bassandyne was a Scotsman, who lived in Edinburgh in a house beside John Knox’s. He printed the first Bible published in Scotland, a Geneva version which became the regular pulpit Bible throughout Scotland.

The rich diversity of Bibles at New College Library was also shown by the  Polyglot Bible – The Antwerp (1569), which contains the Bible text in Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Syriac. This was produced under the patronage of Philip II of Spain, at the suggestion of the famous printer, Christopher Plantin.  Printed in Antwerp, it was sent to Spain by sea  but the ship was wrecked and most of the volumes perished with it, only some 200 being rescued. Of these New College Library possesses one complete copy in excellent condition. The Polyglot Bible relied on the Bomberg Bible for its Hebrew text, which we were also able to have on display. New College Library holds the 1545 or second edition of the Bomberg Bible in its Dalman Christie Collection, which was recently catalogued as part of the Funk Projects.

New College Library’s Torah Scroll

Torah scroll on display in the Funk Reading Room

Torah scroll on display in the Funk Reading Room

Phylactery, New College Objects Collection

Phylactery, New College Objects Collection

New College Library’s Torah Scroll (Pentateuch) was on display to visitors today in the Funk Reading Room.

Scrolls such as these are an integral part of Jewish communal life, being read in their entirety in a yearly cycle. The portions of the masoretic texts are divided into weekly portions and their reading in communal worship is followed by a set reading from the prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible.

This scroll is no longer suitable for ritual use, as it is no longer bound onto its original etzim (rollers) or clothed in its original protective and decorative garments. Some letters are damaged, indicating its non-kosher status. Conservation work was undertaken in 2008 to ensure that the scroll was preserved in an appropriate state for study and teaching, and it received new rollers and new box. The funds for this work were raised by the New College Library Book Sale.

The provenance of the scroll is not known, but it may have come to the Library at the same time as other objects from Jewish religious practice in the New College Library objects collection. These include a phylatctory or tefillin,  a small, black leather cube-shaped case made to contain Torah texts.

New Cambridge History of the Bible – and more

New Cambridge History of the BibleCambridge History of Religions in AmericaThe online version of the New Cambridge History of the Bible  : From 600 to 1450  by Richard Marsden, E. Ann Matter is now available to University of Edinburgh users via the Library catalogue. It joins other Cambridge Histories ebooks which are available via the catalogue, such as the Cambridge History of Religions in America, ed. Stephen J. Stein.

Encyclopedia of the Bible and Its Reception

EBAIRUniversity of Edinburgh users  now have trial access to Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception (De Gruyter) – trial ends 8 March. Find the link at:

The Encyclopedia of the Bible and its Reception aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge on the origins and development of the Bible in its different canonic forms in Judaism and Christianity. At the same time, EBR also documents the history of the Bible’s reception in the Christian churches and the Jewish Diaspora; in Islam, in other religious traditions and current religious movements, Western and non-Western alike, as well as in literature, art, music, and film.

University of Edinburgh users still have Context of Scripture Online (Brill)  available on trial until 19 February. All your feedback is helpful, but if you are able to provide feedback which compares these two Biblical Studies resources that would be particularly welcome. Do you think one is more useful than the other, or are they complementary and we need both?