This past spring, the monumental Plantin Polyglot Bible, printed in Antwerp between 1568 and 1572, joined other important printed Bibles at the Ransom Center. These include the Gutenberg Bible of 1454–55, a 1476 Jenson illuminated Bible on vellum, two Coverdale Bibles (the first complete English Bible), and several King James Bibles. Plantin's eight-volume folio Bible is a triumph of philological and Biblical scholarship and the printing arts, representing one of the pinnacles of Renaissance cultural enterprise.
The Plantin Polyglot Bible is the Ransom Center's single most important rare book acquisition in the past two decades. Copies of this incredibly rare book can be found in only a handful of the great libraries of Europe and America.
"The Plantin Polyglot Bible was probably the most notable gap in our collection of post-1500 Bibles," notes Richard Oram, Associate Director and Hobby Foundation Librarian. "We are extremely fortunate in being able to acquire a nearly complete set (lacking only the last volume of the apparatus) in an original binding. The condition is also extraordinarily fine."
Polyglot Bibles allowed scholars to study parallel texts in the pertinent Biblical languages (Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Aramaic), accompanied by Latin translations and commentary. The translation and publication of such a text required impeccable scholarship, considerable financing, and a publisher capable of negotiating the religious and political minefields of Reformation Europe. The person who undertook this task was the French printer Christophe Plantin, who had moved to Antwerp from Paris to escape religious controversy and established himself as one of the most successful publishers in Europe. In 1565, he proposed that King Philip II of Spain sponsor the project and began obtaining or designing the variety of special typefonts required. By 1568, he received the King's permission to begin work, under the supervision of Philip's chaplain, the scholar Benedictus Arias Montanus. Forty printers working on four handpresses completed the eight volumes by 1572, but many of the original 1,200 copies were lost in a shipwreck on their way to Spain. At the end of his labors Plantin wrote, "Now that the Bible is completed I am quite amazed at what I undertook; an enterprise which I would not repeat, even were I to be given 12,000 crowns as a pure gift."
This acquisition was made possible by generous gifts from Margaret Hight and Lucy Ross.
Other recent acquisitions include:
- The archive of British writer Jim Crace. Crace has won many distinguished awards for his novels, and his 2000 book Being Dead received the National Book Critics Circle Award. Earlier this year, Crace was a writer-in-residence at the The University of Texas at Austin's James Michener Center for Writers.
- A collection of 77 letters from John Steinbeck to Henry S. White, with whom Steinbeck formed a television production company. The letters, written between October 1948 and August 1949, reveal day-to-day activities and concerns related to the production company, as well as information about Steinbeck's personal life, his emotional difficulties, his financial troubles, and his travels. They document a difficult period in Steinbeck's life, when he was coping with the recent death of his close friend, Ed Ricketts, and going through a divorce from his second wife, Gwyn.
- The archive of playwright Kenneth Brown, author of the celebrated experimental play The Brig. The play, staged by the Living Theatre in 1963, contains no traditional plot or character development and simulates a day in the life of marines in the brig. The play was so powerful that it led to calls for congressional investigations into military abuses. The play was recently revived by the Living Theatre company and is being produced around the country.
- Two unpublished letters from Tennessee Williams to his former intimate Pancho Rodriguez Gonzalez, who inspired the character of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire.
Listen to Jim Crace Read from his Works
Hear British writer Jim Crace read from some of his prize-winning works, including the novel Being Dead, which received the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Quarantine, the Whitbread Novel of the Year and shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Crace, whose archive is housed at the Ransom Center, provides an intro to each reading.