Wednesday, September 8, 2010

On the road with Brianus Waltonus


OR IN ENGLISH, Brian Walton. Walton was an Anglican clergyman in the 17th Century, but the reason we're interested is he was also the publisher of the renowned London Polyglot Bible, a six-volume masterpiece published between 1654 and 1657. Thanks to the largess of Countess Estelle Doheny in the 1950s, the Mount owns a complete set in beautiful condition. To see these huge folios is peer into both Reformation history and the history of printing.

The production of polyglots fueled a surge of interest in Middle Eastern languages, which at the time lacked any kind of reference materials. And to see all nine languages rendered in print -- Latin, Hebrew, Chaldean, Samaritan, Syriac Arabic, Persian, Ethiopian and Greek -- is to appreciate the depth of Walton's achievement in a technology that was barely 200 years old.

Hence the trip up the 101 to the University of Santa Clara, which is going to be holding an exhibit of historic Bibles from Sept. 21 through mid-December. The Mount has been honored with an invitation to share some of our own historic volumes, so I'm going to escort them to their temporary home in the fabulous new University Library. Coming along with Brian and me will be a tiny Hebrew grammar from the mid-16th century, a genuine incunable from 1488, a massive early Protestant Bible from Paris in 1532, and a couple of rare 19th Century versions in Gaelic and Welsh. All of these have been generously donated to the Mount Special Collections.

Few people at the College have seen these treasures, and it has been an amazing privilege for me to bring them back to light. For a small school, the Mount has some wonderful items, and now people in the wider world will know that, too.

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