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1485 Bible added to Rare Books Collection

The Libraries’ Rare Book Collection now boasts volume one of four of an early illustrated Latin Vulgate Bible printed in 1485. The Bible was purchased from the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California. In 1955, the school acquired the Bible from John Gilson Howell as part of the Howell Bible Collection. Howell, an American bookseller, collected the Bibles in the early 20th century.

One of the surprises in this book is the handwritten annotations, including a few elaborate pointing fingers drawn in the margins. These are known as manicules. Annotators and printers often used manicules to direct the reader’s attention to important text. We don’t know who made the notations, but we know of at least two owners of the Bible before John Gilson Howell. Edmund Elston signed it as its owner sometime in the 16th century and Philippus Lenys in the 18th.

The volume’s numerous woodcuts were tinted around the time of its publication. The colors remain bright today. Some of the illustrations are full-page. The commentary by Nicolas de Lyra, in a smaller font, is so extensive that it often takes up more space than the Bible text, making for some ingenious type design.

If you are interested in seeing the Bible or any other books in the Libraries’ Rare Book Collection, please contact the University Archives and Special Collections at 937-229-4267 or email

- Joan Milligan, Catalog and Metadata Specialist and Jennifer Brancato, University Archivist

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