Browse Exhibits (4 total)

Highlights from Bridwell Library Special Collections: Bibles


Originally exhibited June 7–July 30, 2010
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


This exhibition comprises a selection of highlights from Bridwell Library Special Collections. Representing various strengths of the library’s rare book collections, the materials document the role of books in religious practice in selected eras and locales. These materials reflect the uncommonly strong foundation for teaching and advanced research that Bridwell Library provides for students and faculty of Perkins School of Theology and Southern Methodist University as well as the broader community.

The Bible constitutes one of the core collections at Bridwell Library. The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection, donated in 1996, offers a comprehensive survey of the printed Bible with notably strong holdings in early English editions and vernacular translations. It is complemented both by the Thomas J. Harrison Bible Collection, received in 1994, and continuing acquisitions in this field. The holdings include medieval manuscripts, first editions of nearly all of the major European language translations, and dozens of uncommon vernacular versions used to propagate the scriptures worldwide.

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Martin Luther in the Age of Print


Originally exhibited August 7– December 15, 2017
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


Commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the announcement by Martin Luther (1483–1546) of his Ninety-five Theses against indulgences, and the beginning of the Reformation, this exhibition serves as an introduction to the reformer and his printed works. After attending university in Erfurt, Germany, Luther eventually focused on theological study, entered the Augustinian order in 1505, and was ordained two years later. In October 1512 he received his doctorate in theology and joined the theology faculty at the University of Wittenberg, a position he would retain throughout his career. The dissemination of his critique regarding indulgences began an extraordinary publishing career that reflected his multiple roles as a theologian, preacher, teacher, and translator. The various genres represented in this exhibition include polemics and treatises, sermons and commentaries, Bible translations, and catechisms.

In addition to his immense impact on Western Christianity in the early modern period, Luther also greatly influenced the world of print in sixteenth-century Europe. A remarkably prolific author, he published more than twenty-five hundred editions of his German works, not including the various editions of his German Bible. Often first appearing in Wittenberg, his books were frequently reprinted in Leipzig, Erfurt, Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Strasbourg. These established printing centers provided additional distribution of his works while Latin translations further increased his readership.

Exploring different printed contexts for Luther’s works, this exhibition includes Bibles and indulgences produced prior to Luther’s own publications as well as pre-seventeenth century Catholic responses to Luther and the early Reformation during his lifetime and after his death. This combination of Luther’s publications and those of his adversaries provides insight into the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation and the divisiveness engendered by this quest for religious reform as witnessed in the age of print.

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Missionary Presses


Originally exhibited August 29 – December 5, 2014
Entry Hall


This exhibition highlights Bibles and other religious texts in indigenous languages published by missionary presses in the nineteenth century.  Printed throughout the world in a variety of languages and letterforms, these translations were disseminated for local use as an integral element of conversion efforts by various denominations.   Reminders of the numerous difficulties of communicating across cultural, theological, and linguistic boundaries, these works testify to the series of collaborations between translators, native speakers, and printers whose combined efforts created the sacred and instructional works here on display.

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The Thomas J. Harrison Bible Collection


Originally exhibited February 1–May 4, 2018
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


This exhibition highlights Bibles from the collection of Thomas J. Harrison (1885–1963). Born in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Harrison moved with his family to Pryor, Oklahoma, as a young boy and resided there for the remainder of his life. Active in the civic and cultural affairs of Pryor, he served as mayor as well as city treasurer. His contributions also included supporting the establishment and development of the city’s public library.

Harrison began collecting Bibles in the 1940s, eventually acquiring over three hundred works. Particularly engaged with the history of the English Bible, he gathered first editions and later printings documenting the sequence of texts culminating in the 1611 King James Version and the English-language biblical tradition that followed in the United Kingdom and the United States. Complementing these interests, he also acquired rare Bibles in biblical, Native American, and world vernacular languages produced between the thirteenth and twentieth centuries.

In the decade prior to his death, Mr. Harrison was in regular correspondence with Decherd Turner, the first Bridwell Library Director. Turner visited Harrison and expressed much admiration and interest in the collection. Through an arrangement with The Thomas J. and Bea L. Harrison Trust, Bridwell Library became the depository for the collection in 1964. The Harrison Trust generously supported the collection by funding the acquisition of rare Bibles through 1995, at which time the trust dissolved and the collection officially transferred to Bridwell Library. Harrison’s vision for the collection continues to develop with funds from an endowment created by the trust.

Harrison holdings include a remarkable seventeenth-century Chinese Torah scroll, medieval manuscripts, incunabula, early editions in biblical languages, polyglot and diglot Bibles, European and world vernacular translations, English and American imprints, and modern fine press editions. These Bibles are presented regularly to visitors and classes, engaging students and scholars interested in the dissemination of biblical texts and the continuing impact of the Bible throughout the centuries.

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