- Associated Press - Monday, October 3, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) - For probably half a century, a copy of one of the most historically significant Bibles ever published sat forgotten in the basement of Lewis & Clark College’s Aubrey R. Watzek Library in Portland.

But recently a curious history major opened a box, and the 1599 Geneva Bible - the Bible of Queen Elizabeth I, William Shakespeare and the Mayflower Pilgrims - came back into the light of day.

“It’s quite rare,” said Hannah Crummé, the library’s head of special collections and college archivist. “It’s not the only copy of this particular book … but it is the only catalogued copy in the Northwest.”

On top of that, it could be said to have royal lineage.

One page reads: “Imprinted at London, by the Deputies of Christopher Barker, Printer to the Queenes most excellent Majestie.”

The Geneva Bible was a leading symbol of the Protestant Reformation, Crummé said. It was dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, who by 1599 had been excommunicated by Pope Pius V.

“Elizabeth I pitted her Protestant nation against the Catholic powers in Europe, particularly Spain,” Crummé said. “She allowed her subjects to study the Bible in their native English, making not just religion but the written word newly accessible to the majority of people.”

Lewis & Clark’s copy also made the scriptures accessible through numerous elaborate woodcut illustrations. One, titled “The Situation of the Garden of Eden,” is a map of the ancient Middle East, showing “The Great Armenia,” ”Mesopotamie,” ”Babylone” and “The Golphe of the Persian Sea.” The Old Testament story of Solomon and his temple is illustrated with interior and exterior views of the temple.

The Bible is in good condition despite repairs that wouldn’t meet today’s book conservation standards, Crummé said.

“Very few pages are ripped. I don’t believe any pages are missing,” she said.

Crummé has traced the Bible’s ownership back to Francis Fry, a 19th-century Bible collector in England. From Fry, the Bible apparently went to a London bookseller, who sold it to the Rev. Clarence Baerveldt, a pastor in Waldport and Yachats, who gave it to Lewis & Clark.

Along the way, it’s possible the Bible made a stop in the southern Oregon community of Roseburg because Crummé found a Roseburg address written on a page.

She thinks the Bible was put in storage in 1967, the year Lewis & Clark dropped its century-old affiliation with the Presbyterian Church and the year Watzek Library was built, providing a convenient basement. And there the Bible might have stayed if it hadn’t been for junior Sam Bussan.

Bussan began working in the special collections and archives earlier this month, going through documents about the college’s history. As he was replacing a box of documents and preparing to leave for the day last week, he spotted a label on a bottom shelf that said, simply, “Bibles.”

Intrigued, he opened the four boxes and “found all these incredible books” - not only the 10-by-7-inch folio edition of the Geneva Bible but also Bibles from the 17th through 19th centuries.

He initially described his finds to Crummé only as “old stuff.”

“I thought it was unlikely that they were really that old,” he said. “I thought it couldn’t possibly be true.”

But Crummé and other library staff are convinced of the Bibles’ provenance.

“It really was very exciting to have this thing that’s come 417 years” from its origin, Bussan said. “To have that end up in such an unlikely place is very exciting and intriguing.”

Crummé plans to put the Bibles on display in the spring.

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The Oregonian: http://www.oregonlive.com

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