A curious college student has rediscovered a copy of what the Oregonian calls "one of the most historically significant Bibles ever published." Junior Sam Bussan had only been working as an archival assistant at Lewis & Clark College's Watzek Library in Portland for less than a month when he opened a box labeled "Bibles" on Sept. 27 and found "all these incredible books" dating from the 17th to 19th centuries, he says. But one book in particular stood out, resulting in what he calls "almost a religious experience." It was a forgotten copy of the 1599 Geneva Bible—complete with ornate drawings and a map of the Middle East—which became a symbol of the Protestant Reformation. Dedicated to Queen Elizabeth I, it was among the first bibles to be published in English.
"Elizabeth I pitted her Protestant nation against the Catholic powers in Europe," says the library's head of special collections, Hannah Crumme. "She allowed her subjects to study the Bible in their native English, making not just religion but the written word newly accessible to the majority of people." Other copies of the bible exist, but none have been catalogued in the Pacific Northwest, Crumme says. This particular copy—the second oldest book in the college's collection, with only a few pages ripped and none missing, per KGW—once belonged to a 19th-century bible collector in England. It was later sold to a pastor, who donated it to Lewis & Clark. Crumme suspects it was put in storage 49 years ago and forgotten. (This 1535 bible held a surprise.)