McGill holds a good 1200 Bibles in English, French and various languages, along with an impressive group of polyglot Bibles in Hebrew, Latin, Greek and more. The purpose of the exhibition is to address the community of researchers, students and faculty of the School of Religious Studies and draw their attention to these rich historical resources housed in the McGill Library; and to imagine potential research projects with these inspiring treasures.
Ever since the invention of printing in the 15th century, Bibles were the most frequently printed text over the centuries. Encompassing the Old and New Testaments, or representing abridgements, selections, or readings, each edition is quite unique. Bibles can be large or small; for young or old; and possibly embellished by some of the most famous illustrators of books ever to live, including the Bible by French designer Gustave Doré (1832-1883), now on display.
One of the earliest Bibles on display is a huge folio Bible from the Netherlands, printed in 1748. It has an elaborate gilt-tooled binding with a pattern on the calf leather called “cat’s paw”. Looking at its provenance, it was presented by Francis McLennan to McGill’s Divinity Hall Library in 1928 and stayed there until it was transferred to McLennan Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections in the recent past. Opposite to it in the case is the tiniest palm- sized illustrated bible from the same century published in London. An ebony bible box gifted by Casey Wood to McGill and several religious prints from other donors contribute to the display, such as the wild seventeenth-century Dutch engraving after Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), “Quis ut Deus”, depicting the Archangel Michael expelling Satan.
We invite one and all to appreciate these amazing works in the quiet surroundings of the Birks Reading Room.
A collaboration between the Humanities and Social Sciences Library (HSSL) and Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC).
Curated by Liaison Librarians Sandy Hervieux and Ann Marie Holland.