Rare Catholic book is to go on display in city
A RARE Roman Catholic religious book dated 1637 is one of a number of early Christian texts going on display in Plymouth's Central Library.
The book contains instructions and texts for celebrating mass and was discovered by Senior Librarian Graham Naylor while he was looking through the store rooms for books to include in the exhibition.
The complete set of all the Latin texts used by priests conducting Mass, known as a missal, would still be recognised by congregations today.
Possession of the book in 1637 – as Charles I sat on the throne and England rushed towards a civil war that was to cost him his head – would have been illegal.
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The missal includes musical notes to accompany sung prayers and is well used and stained with candlewax and finger prints.
Other items included in the collection are a Welsh family bible (bibl teuluaidd) dated 1820, a small bible dated 1658 (during the time of the English Commonwealth), and a 19th century Finger Book of Common Prayer. The display also includes a 1614 'She' Bible, an early King James version that contains a one-letter addition in Ruth 3:15 – '…and she went into the citie'.
The earliest book in the exhibition is a 1576 Geneva Bible, one of most historically significant Protestant bibles, translated into English from the original Greek. During the reign of Mary (1553 to 1558), many prominent Protestant scholars fled to Switzerland where they translated first the Old and later the New Testaments. Geneva Bibles were used by William Shakespeare, John Donne, John Bunyan and anti-establishment dissenters and were carried to the New World from Plymouth on the Mayflower.
Also on display are two very interesting pocket-size volumes with connections to Elizabeth Fry, the renowned Quaker, social reformer and philanthropist who appears on the reverse of £5 notes. The volumes, 'Texts for Every Day in the Year, Principally Practical and Devotional Bible Texts', date from 1831 and 1853, and the earlier one includes a hand-written dedication – 'Anna Buxton, from her affectionate friend Elizabeth Fry' – and signature.
Deputy Council Leader Peter Smith said: "This is a chance to view some of the oldest and rarest items from our library collections up close before they are returned to safe storage. They will be of interest to everyone, not just because of their age but also their historical and religious significance."
The display will be on the first floor of the Central Library until the end of September and entry is free.