I got to take a very cool field trip on Tuesday: I drove down to Provo to look at some old books from BYU’s special collections library. You see, my father-in-law has a few rare books and documents (including a sixteenth-century Tyndale Bible), and at some point in the last year or two he talked to someone at Special Collections about lending the Tyndale to them (they couldn’t accept, because of liability issues, but boy howdy would they like to buy it).
The Special Collections guy was kind enough to give my father-in-law a tour of the vault and show him some of the cool old books they had back there. Well, apparently my father-in-law let the Special Collections guy (or SCG, as I will call him hereafter) know that he was going to be back in Provo this week to send my brother-in-law off to the MTC, and he was wondering if he could bring the whole family along for another tour of the vault.
Unfortunately they don’t do that anymore, because of security issues, but SCG said he’d bring out a cart full of stuff that we could look at in another room. My boss let me take the afternoon off (I told her simply that I was spending time with the in-laws before my brother-in-law left on his mission, not that I was going to be going to the library and looking at old books), so Brinestone, Lego, and I made the long trek down to Provo and met up with her family at the library.
I realize that this pegs me as a huge nerd, but I have never been so excited to look at books, and I have been known to get fairly excited about books. SCG started us off with a 4,000-year-old cuneiform tablet (a receipt for a beer sale) and then launched in to the old Bibles. Here they are (at least the ones I can remember) in no particular order:
- Volume 1 of a three-volume, $20,000 facsimile of a 500-year-old Toledo Bible made especially for a Spanish king (it had a ridiculous amount of gold leaf)
- A facsimile of the Lindisfarne Gospels (hooray for Old English!)
- A Wycliffe Bible that had been reproduced in the sixteenth century
- An original King James Bible
- An original Luther Bible
- A single page from the Gutenberg Bible, along with a page from a handwritten Bible to show how closely they matched
- And of course we mustn’t forget the 1830 Book of Mormon which was given out by Samuel Smith on one of the first missions in the Church.
The illuminations were amazing; photocopies are okay, and facsimlies are great, but there’s nothing quite like looking at the exquisite detail and vivid colors on an authentic 500-year-old book that took literally years to make. Truly amazing stuff.
I think it’s the best field trip I’ve ever taken.