Over the past several months we have been working on scanning, processing, and completing metadata for a very special volume from one of our partners. In January, La Salle University brought over their latest batch of items for us to digitize, which included a first edition of the King James Bible from 1611. Not only is this an exciting and important work to digitize, but it is particularly timely now as this version of the Bible celebrates the 400th anniversary of its completion.
This book proved challenging to scan in many ways. Its bulky and unwieldy size meant that for most of the process, scanning was a two-person job. The volume is also fairly tightly-bound, which meant that getting the full page was difficult at times. We were able to meet these challenges, however, and we are pleased to present the entire volume online.
Sarah Seraphin, Special Collections Librarian at La Salle University’s Connelly Library, was very enthusiastic about the completion of this scanning endeavor. “This partnership makes it possible to deliver our content to scholars all over the world, on an excellent platform alongside the collections of other Catholic institutions,” Seraphin said. “Our aim is to curate a unique online selection of historic Bibles relating to the translation of the Holy Bible into English. With the 1611 ‘He Bible’ now online, the task of scanning one of our most prized volumes has come to fruition. We are grateful for the dedication of the Digital Library staff for their work on this and other invaluable works from the Susan Dunleavy Collection.”
Seraphin curated an exhibit called “Adornment & Alliance: Preserving Illustrated and Historic Bibles and Curating a Digital Collection Through Constructive Partnership.” This exhibit honors the mission of the Susan Dunleavy Collection of Biblical Literature and highlights La Salle’s partnership with our Digital Library—and, of course, it also celebrates the 400th anniversary of the 1611 King James Bible. The exhibit is on view in the main lobby of La Salle’s Connelly Library until mid-July 2011.
There were two separate issues of the first edition, both published in 1611. The volume featured in this article is a first issue of the first edition, which contained a type-setting error in Ruth 3:15: “… he went into the citie.” For this reason, the first issue is known colloquially as the “He Bible.” The second issue is known as the “She Bible” and it (and all subsequent editions) reads: “… she went into the citie.”
One of the great pleasures of working with rare books and manuscripts is getting to “touch” history and make it available to a wider audience online through our Digital Library, though oftentimes these materials may have been forgotten. It has been an interesting and exciting experience to handle and digitize a 1611 King James Bible—a book that still has a tremendous impact 400 years after its original publication.