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A selection of text from the newly acquired 13th-century Bible
A selection of text from the newly acquired 13th-century Bible.

University acquires rare medieval Bible

Just months after it opened its Ernest F. Hollings Special Collections Library, the University of South Carolina has acquired a rare medieval Bible, the first complete Bible of its kind in South Carolina.

Scott Gwara
Scott Gwara

Small enough for monks and friars to tote around, the new Bible is rare because it was written in Oxford, England, around 1240 and is in pristine condition. It was purchased for $77,000 with support from New York’s B. H. Breslauer Foundation and joins other valuable medieval holdings in the library’s Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections.

“This Bible is exceptionally fine,” says Dr. Scott Gwara, a USC medievalist who recommended the acquisition and secured the outside funding. “Even though it’s written in Latin, the 1,000-page manuscript is from England, produced around 1240.”

Gwara says most medieval Bibles in the United States -- fewer than 100 in number -- are from France or Italy. The Bible acquired by USC is the only English pocket Bible in the Southeast, making it particularly valuable for research and study.

“Most Bibles from this period originated in Paris, so an English Bible like this one is very rare. It was probably made in Oxford,” Gwara says. “It looks as pristine as the day it was copied, more than 750 years ago.”

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A biblical acquisition

  • What: Bible, created around the year 1240
  • Who: USC medievalist Scott Gwara organized the acquisition and secured the outside funding
  • Where: New Bible to join university's other medieval holdings in Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections

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