The History of Artifacts

Provenance Research at the Museum of the Bible

Objects in museums tell us stories about the past. An artifact's provenance is the history of its ownership and location, from its creation or place of modern discovery to the present. This history helps to verify the authenticity and importance of an artifact. It also contributes to our understanding of how an object was used over time. An object with a well-documented provenance teaches us much more about the past than one without a confirmed history.

Documenting Provenance

A common challenge in documenting provenance is that historically—in contrast to modern practices of documenting transactions and keeping archival records—many objects have changed hands over decades or even centuries without accompanying records being provided to the new owner. In addition, many owners request anonymity when selling objects through auction houses or otherwise transferring works through private transactions.

Two areas are of special concern for museums in general and for Museum of the Bible (MOTB) in particular: first, items that may have been subject to Nazi-era looting in Europe from 1933–1945, and second, ancient objects that may have originated in source nations or in areas of modern conflict, such as modern-day Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria. Museum of the Bible, in consultation with cultural heritage and legal experts, has developed procedures for researching and investigating objects with potentially difficult histories in areas of turmoil. In doing so, Museum of the Bible has made a firm commitment to ethical collecting and to acknowledging objects in its collection that may have entered the market as a result of war, looting, or colonial practice.

Museum of the Bible’s acquisition policy, adopted in 2016, can be viewed here. Collections staff has undertaken a comprehensive review of all purchases and donations made prior to 2016 to determine whether each object meets the standards of this policy, whether some mediation is needed (such as listing on the Association of Art Museum Directors Object Registry (New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art) or contacting the possible country of origin), or whether the item requires further research before being displayed or published. This research includes items in the MOTB collection as well as items loaned from other museums, collections, and educational institutions. The sources of information for our research include:

  • Museum curatorial and registration records
  • Documentation provided by previous sellers, owners, and collectors
  • Publication history of significant items
  • Exhibition history
  • Contact with previous owners or sellers where possible
  • Auction catalogs
  • Research into significant private collections and their catalogs
  • Export licenses and other customs documentation from the country of origin
  • Import documentation
  • Publications by scholars, both those connected with and those outside Museum of the Bible
  • Scientific analysis, such as carbon-14 dating and ink analysis
  • Previous owners' signatures, bookplates, and other identifying information on the object itself
  • Stylistic analysis indicating the likely time period or location of an object's creation

Frequently, it is impossible to document an object’s complete provenance, especially for common or generic items like household objects and bound volumes, and there are many reasons why we may not be able to account for every episode of an object’s history. Requests for anonymity, poor record-keeping habits, and the destruction of records (whether intentional or inadvertent) are common challenges. Furthermore, some categories of objects, such as rare books and everyday ceremonial objects, have long been bought and sold by reputable dealers and collectors without any expectation of a recorded provenance. Despite these obstacles, we seek to provide the fullest information possible about the museum’s objects.

Museum of the Bible curators and registrars conduct detailed research into the provenance of every object in its permanent collection and on display in the museum. Research on the approximately 3,100 items that are on display in the Washington, DC, museum has been completed, in consultation with cultural heritage and legal experts. Of the 3,100 items, approximately 1159 are owned by Museum of the Bible. There are 41 lenders for all other items. This research helps to establish whether ownership of each artifact is in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations, and with ethical guidelines of the Museum and of U.S. and international museum associations. To assist the public in understanding the challenges in the Museum’s collection, items with significant gaps in their provenance have been noted in the display cases or wall panels of the museum, with further information provided on this page. As the Museum’s ongoing provenance research continues, additional information will be added on this page regularly. We welcome further information on the provenance of any object displayed in the Museum. Please contact us at

Publication of the Provenance of Artifacts in Museum of the Bible

MOTB is developing a publicly-accessible database of all objects on display, as well as those in storage. This database will make available provenance information on, and eventually images of, all items in the Museum’s collection. This page provides the provenance of a sample of the earliest and most important items in the collection. The page will be updated regularly.


Due to past practices, the history of objects from the ancient world are particularly difficult to trace from their creation or discovery to modern times. Artifacts excavated on scientific archaeological excavations are the most useful because we know the city in which they were found, the building in which they were found, and even about the other artifacts that were found in the same context. This is the best form of provenance. Many museums have artifacts that were not found on archaeological excavations, however, so it is common to see antiquities with uncertain find-spots in major collections around the world.

Nebuchadnezzar Royal Inscription Temple Dedication
Clay, Iraq, 604 BCE
(115 × 68 × 43 mm)

Reign of Nebuchadnezzar II, 604-562 BCE. Collection of Elias S. David (1891-1969), New York; Thence by descent; Purchased at auction by David Sofer in June 2015; Private purchase by Green Collection, 2017.

"Wyman Fragment" (Uncial 0220), Romans 4:23—5:3; 5:8—13, in Greek
Vellum and ink, Egypt, ca. 3rd century CE
(81 × 110 mm)

Egypt, ca. 3rd century CE. Discovered by locals in Fustât. Privately purchased in Cairo by Dr. Leland C. Wyman (1897–1988) on July 3, 1950; [1] By descent in the Wyman family until 1988; Purchased at auction in 1988 by Martin Schøyen, bookseller, Norway until 2012; [2] Purchased at auction in 2012 by Green Collection until 2013; [3] Donated to MOTB in 2014.

Notes: [1] The purchase of this item is described in W. P. Hatch, “A Recently Discovered Fragment of the Epistle to the Romans,” Harvard Theological Review 45 (1952), 81-85, and in David M. Brugge and Charlotte J. Frisbie, eds., Navajo Religion and Culture, Selected Views, Papers in Honour of Leland C. Wyman (Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1982), 5. [2] Sotheby’s, June 21, 1988, lot 47. [3] Sotheby’s, July 20, 2012, Lot 3.

P.Oxy. 1780 (P39), John 8:14-22, in Greek
Papyrus, Oxyrhynchus (Egypt), ca. 275–300 CE
(255 × 85 mm)

Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā), Egypt, ca. 275-300 CE. [1] Fragment of a codex of the Gospel of John, copied for use in the Christian community at Oxyrhynchus. The large, careful uncial letters suggest that this codex was produced by a professional scribe for public reading. [2] Excavated at Oxyrhynchus by Bernard Grenfell and Arthur Hunt, who published the papyrus in Volume 15 of the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (1922); [3] Belonged to the Egypt Exploration Fund until 1922; [4] Gift to Crozer Theological Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania, which eventually became the Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, NY; [5] Auctioned by Sotheby’s in 2003; Connected with William Noah 2004-2008; [6] Unsuccessful auction by Sotheby’s London, December 3, 2008; [7] Acquired by the Green Collection through a private sale in 2010; [8] Donated to MOTB in 2012.

Notes: [1] Scholarly attempts to date this fragment on the basis of paleography have ranged from as early as 150 to as late as 400 CE. See Pasquale Orsini and Willy Clarysse, “Early New Testament Manuscripts and Their Dates,” Ephemerides Theologicae Lovanienses 88/4 (2012), pp. 443-474, especially pp. 462 and 470 for P39. [2] A.M. Luijendijk, “Sacred Scripture as Trash: Biblical Papyri from Oxyrhynchus,” Vigiliae Christianae 64 (2010), 217-254, especially, p. 247. [3] Oxyrhynchus Papyri, v. 15, pp. 7–8. [4] The Egyptian Exploration Fund, which sponsored Grenfell and Hunt’s work, began distributing papyri as gifts to supporting institutions in 1900. By 1922, it had gifted approximately three thousand items to 103 institutions, including Crozer Theological Seminary; cf. Oxyrhynchus Papyri, v. 16, pp. 275–279. [5] Rochester, Ambrose Swasey Library, Inv. 886.4 [6] sold by Sotheby’s June 2003 lot 97. See Sotheby’s New York, Fine Books and Manuscripts Including Americana (auction catalogue), June 20, 2003, 93-95. [7] Reuters news article: Rare gospel fragment fails to sell at Sotheby's. [8] There was much academic speculation about the sale of P39 in 2003 and its later appearance in the Green Collection; cf. Roberta Mazza, “Papyri Ethics, and Economics: A Biography of P.Oxy. 15.1780 (P39),” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 52 (2015), pp. 113–142.

P.Bodmer XXIV (Rahlfs 2110)
Pabau (near Dishna), Egypt, ca. 225-325 CE
Dimensions of a nearly complete folio (.45): approximately 230 x 125 mm

Pabau (near Dishna), Egypt ca. 225-325. [1] Part of a cache of papyrus codices found in 1952, this codex, a psalter containing most of Psalms 17-118, was brought to Switzerland, where Martin Bodmer acquired it for the Bodmer Library in Coligny. The Bodmer Library published the text in 1967. [2] Acquired by the Green Collection through a private sale in 2010; donated to MOTB in 2012.

Notes: [1] In his foreword to the first publication of P.Bodmer XXIV (1967), Rodolphe Kasser dated the codex to between late third century and early fourth century. Some scholars have pushed for an earlier date based on grounds of content. [2] Rodolphe Kasser et Michel Testuz, Papyrus Bodmer XXIV. Psaumes XVII-CXVIII (grec). Bibliotheca Bodmeriana, 235 p. et 98 pl., 1967. Improvements in some of the readings were published by Albert Pietersma, “The Edited Text of P.Bodmer XXIV,” The Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists, v. 17, no. 1/2 (1980), pp. 67-79.

P.Oxy. 1353 (Uncial 0206), I Peter 5: 6–12, in Greek
Parchment, Oxyrhynchus (Egypt), 3rd–4th century CE
(203 × 178 mm)

Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā), Egypt, 3rd–4th century CE. Discovered in the early 1900s by Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869–1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871–1934); [1] Ownership assumed between 1915–1922 by United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio until 2009; [2] Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection until 2013; Donated to MOTB in 2014.

Notes: [1] P.Oxy XI 1353, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part XI (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1915), p. 5. [2] The Egyptian Exploration Fund, which sponsored Grenfell and Hunt’s work, began distributing papyri as gifts to supporting institutions in 1900. By 1922, it had gifted approximately three thousand items to 103 institutions, including United Theological Seminary.

P.Oxy.XIV 1775, Letter of Plutarchos to His Friend Theoninos, in Greek
Papyrus, Oxyrhynchus (Egypt), 4th century CE
(103 x 219 mm)

Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā), Egypt, 4th century CE. Discovered in the early 1900s by Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869–1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871–1934); [1] Ownership assumed between 1915–1922 by United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio until 2009; [2] Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection until 2013; Donated to MOTB in 2013.

Notes: [1] P.Oxy.XIV 1775, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part XIV (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1920), p. 187. [2] The Egyptian Exploration Fund, which sponsored Grenfell and Hunt’s work, began distributing papyri as gifts to supporting institutions in 1900. By 1922, it had gifted approximately three thousand items to 103 institutions, including United Theological Seminary. See Roberta Mazza, “Papyri Ethics, and Economics: A Biography of P.Oxy. 15.1780 (P39),” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 52 (2015), pp. 113–142.

P.Oxy. 1678, Letter of Theon to His Mother, in Greek
Papyrus, Oxyrhynchus (Egypt), 3rd century CE
(266 x 155 mm)

Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā), Egypt, 3rd century. [1] Discovered in the early 1900s by Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869–1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871–1934); [1] Ownership assumed between 1915–1922 by United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio until 2009; [2] Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection until 2013; [3] Donated to MOTB in 2013.

Notes: [1] P.Oxy.XIV 1775, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part XIV (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1920), p. 187. [2] The Egyptian Exploration Fund, which sponsored Grenfell and Hunt’s work, began distributing papyri as gifts to supporting institutions in 1900. By 1922, it had gifted approximately three thousand items to 103 institutions, including United Theological Seminary. [3] See Roberta Mazza, “Papyri Ethics, and Economics: A Biography of P.Oxy. 15.1780 (P39 ),” Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 52 (2015), pp. 113–142.

Documentary Account of Receipts and Expenses in Greek on Papyrus
Egypt 3rd century CE
(132 x 118 mm)

Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā), Egypt, 3rd Century CE. Discovered in the early 1900s by Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869-1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871-1934); [1] Ownership assumed between 1915-1922 by United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio until 2009; [2] Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection until 2013; Donated to MOTB in 2013

Notes: [1] P. Oxy. XIV 1728, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part XIV (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1920), 169. [2] The Egyptian Exploration Fund, which sponsored Grenfell and Hunt’s work, began distributing papyri as gifts to supporting institutions in 1900. By 1922, it had gifted approximately three thousand items to 103 institutions, including United Theological Seminary.

Psalm 1:4-6, Leaf from Pocket Codex
Egypt 3rd-4th century CE
(178 × 140 mm)

Oxyrhynchus (now al-Bahnasā), Egypt 3rd-4th century CE. Discovered in the early 1900s by Bernard Pyne Grenfell (1869-1926) and Arthur Surridge Hunt (1871-1934);[1] Ownership assumed between 1915-1922 by United Theological Seminary, Dayton, Ohio until 2009;[2] Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection until 2013; Donated to MOTB in 2013

Notes: [1] P. Oxy. XV 1779, Bernard P. Grenfell and Arthur S. Hunt, The Oxyrhynchus Papyri, part XV (London: Egypt Exploration Fund, 1922), 6. [2] The Egyptian Exploration Fund, which sponsored Grenfell and Hunt’s work, began distributing papyri as gifts to supporting institutions in 1900. By 1922, it had gifted approximately three thousand items to 103 institutions, including United Theological Seminary.

Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscripts are hand-made objects that are inherently unique. As such, their ownership records have, historically, been fairly complete. Because most of the museum’s medieval manuscripts originated in Europe, MOTB curators have been working to verify export documentation for these objects and their ownership history through the 20th century, especially between 1933 and 1945. Where such information has appeared less than satisfactory, MOTB curators have conducted searches for these manuscripts on the Art Loss Register, which maintains a database of theft losses, and continue to pursue other provenance leads.

The Rosebery Rolle: The Psalms and Canticles in Pre-Wycliffite English Translation, with the Commentary of Richard Rolle (d. 1349), in Latin and English
Illuminated manuscript on parchment, Yorkshire (England), late 14th–early 15th century
(306 x 215 x 76 mm)

Yorkshire, England, ca. 1380. Probably utilized by preachers for community readings, ca. 15th and 16th centuries. [1] Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Methodist minister, until 1832; Purchased at auction in 1832 by Thomas Thorpe (1791–1851) until 1836; Privately purchased in 1836 by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872) until 1872; [2] Purchased at auction in 1897 by Quaritch. John Scott of Halkshill, Largs (Ayrshire); Purchased at auction in 1923 by Archibald P. Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery and Prime Minister (1847–1929), until 1929; [3] By descent in the Primrose family until 2009; Purchased at auction in 2009 by Green Collection until 2012; [4] Donated to MOTB in 2012.

Notes: [1] The presence of female autographs in the margins (see “Elizabeth” in fol.177r.) suggests that this manuscript was likely copied by nuns for devotional use in a convent in the area of Yorkshire around 1380. It was subsequently marked with distinctions of the type commonly used by preachers, indicating its use for public readings. [2] Sotheby’s, June 20, 1836, lot 30. This was one of 1,600 manuscripts acquired by Phillipps this year. See Seymour de Ricci, English Collectors of Books & Manuscripts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930), p. 122 and Thomas Thorpe, Catalogue of Upwards of Fourteen Hundred Manuscripts (London: Thomas Thorpe, 1836), no. 526. [3] Sotheby’s May 17, 1897, lot 623 and Sotheby’s, March 27, 1905, lot 1923. [4] Sotheby’s, December 8, 2009, lot 48.

Codex Climaci Rescriptus—John Climacus’ Ladder of Divine Ascent and The Book of the Shepherd, in Syriac over various texts in Greek and Christian Palestinian Aramaic
Vellum, St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai (Egypt)
ca. AD 500—599 (Aramaic), ca. AD 700—799 (Greek), and ca. AD 800—899 (Syriac)
(Dimensions of a typical bifolio: 230 x 370 mm)

Monastery of St. Catherine, Mt. Sinai, Egypt, 5th—9th centuries CE, depending on the individual leaf and layer of text. Monks at the monastery of St. Catherine produced this palimpsest manuscript in the late ninth century. They recycled leaves from at least ten different Greek and Aramaic manuscripts by erasing the text, and then writing a Syriac translation of John Climacus’ works on the reused vellum. The original Greek texts are a mixture of classical texts and biblical texts. All of the Aramaic texts are biblical. The biblical texts in both languages are a mixture of continuous texts along with excerpts for lectionaries or use in homilies. To date, not all of the classical texts have been identified. Agnes Smith Lewis and her twin sister Margaret Dunlop Gibson acquired 137 of the 146 leaves of the manuscript in Egypt between 1895 and 1906 and brought them to Cambridge University for study; [1] After the deaths of Margaret Dunlop Gibson in 1920 and Agnes Smith Lewis in 1926, the manuscript was bequeathed to Westminster College, Cambridge. [2] Sotheby’s offered the manuscript at auction in 2009, but it failed to sell. The Green Collection acquired the manuscript through a private sale in 2010; [3] Donated to MOTB in 2012.

Notes: [1] Agnes Smith Lewis, Codex Climaci Rescriptus: Horae Semiticae, No. VIII, Cambridge University Press, 1909; reprinted Wipf and Stock Publishers (Eugene, Oregon: 2004), pp. xi-xii. [2] Image of Sotheby’s Catalogue posted May 29, 2009, . [3]

The Rice Psalter, Use of Sarum, in Latin
Illuminated manuscript on vellum, England
ca. mid-15th century CE
(303 x 222 x 53mm)

Likely London, England, ca. mid-15th century. Probably used liturgically in the area of Kidderminster, England, until the 17th century. [1] Davenport family of Bramhall by the 17th century; [2] By descent within the Davenport family until 1877; Privately purchased in 1877 by Henry Huth (1815–1878) until 1878; By descent to Alfred Henry Huth (1850-1910), son, until 1910; Purchased at auction in 1917 by Quaritch; [3] Purchased at auction in 1931 by Carrie Estelle Doheny (1875–1958), Los Angeles, California until 1958; Gifted between 1940 and 1958 to St. John’s Seminary Camarillo, California until 1987; [4] Sold at auction through Christie’s to a private collector in 1987; Purchased at auction in 2011 by the Green Collection until 2014; Donated to MOTB in 2014.

Notes: [1] The antiphons in the book show that the item was intended for liturgical rather than private use. Likewise, the grading of feasts in the calendar indicates that it was used in a secular church or chapel. An inscription written in Latin at the end of the text references a Symon Rice and his wife “Letyce.” This is likely Simon Rice (or Rise) (d.1530), a merchant in London, and his wife Lettice, both of whom were major contributors to All Saints’ Church in Kidderminster. See Anne F. Sutton, The Mercury of London: Trade, Goods and People, 1130-1578 (Florence: Taylor and Francis, 2005), 539. [2] The book is inscribed with “Jn. Davenport His book” on the back flyleaf and remained in the family until 1877. See The Huth Library: Catalogue of the Famous Library of Printed Books, Illuminated Manuscripts, Autograph Letters, and Engravings Collected by Henry Huth, 1911–1920, IV (London: Dryden Press, 1914), p. 1192. [3] Bernard Quaritch, A Catalogue of Illuminated and Other Manuscripts, 1931 and L. V. Miller, Catalogue of Books & Manuscripts in the Estelle Doheny Collection, I (1940), p.4. [4] Christie’s, December 12, 1987, lot 176.

Major and Minor Prophets, in Latin
Northern or Central Italy, ca. 1180–1210 CE
(253 × 180 × 60 mm)

Northern or Central Italy, ca. 1180–1210 CE. Antonius Christoforus, canon of St. Mary Church in Carpi by 15th century; Gifted in the 15th century to the Observant Franciscan House at San Nicolò at Carpi until 1868; [1] Transferred in 1868 to the Biblioteca Palatina in Modena. Henry White (1822–1900) of London by the late 19th century; Sold at auction by Sotheby’s in 1902. [2] Les Enluminures, LTD, Chicago by 2011; Privately purchased in 2012 by the Green Collection until 2014; Donated to MOTB in 2014.

Notes: [1] An inscription in the lower margin of f. 189v dated from this period records the transfer of the book. Later, an inventory of the library in 1600 describes a manuscript that matches the item displayed here. See Anna Prandi, Tesori di una Biblioteca Francescana; Libri e Manoscritti del Convento di San Nicolò in Carpi, sec. XV-XIX (Modena: Mucchi, 2000), p. 21. [2] Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, Catalogue of the Valuable and Extensive Library of Printed Books and Illuminated & Other Important Manuscripts of the Late Henry White, Esq. (London: Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, 1902), p. 18.

“Ussher” Gospels, in Greek
Illuminated manuscript on parchment, Byzantium (likely Constantinople)
ca. 1125–1150
(125 × 93 × 42 mm)

Byzantine Empire, ca. 12th century CE. Thomas Goad (1576–1638), rector of Hadleigh, England. James Ussher (1581–1656), Archbishop of Armagh, Ireland, until 1656; By descent to his daughter Elizabeth (1619–1693) until 1661; Donated in 1661 to Trinity College, Dublin until 1702. Francis Rawdon Hastings (1754–1826) in 1793? until 1826; By descent in the Hastings family until 1868; Purchased at auction in 1868 to John Crichton-Stuart (1847–1900), 3rd Marquess of Bute, until 1900; By descent in the Crichton-Stuart family until 1983; Purchased at auction in 1983 by Hans Peter Kraus (1907–1988) of New York. [1] Martin Schøyen, bookseller, Norway until 2011; [2] Privately purchased in 2011 by the Green Collection until 2014; Donated to MOTB in 2014.

Notes: [1] Sotheby’s June 13, 1983, lot 1. [2] See Les Enluminures, 20 Now: Les Enluminures, 1991-2011, Catalogue 16 (Chicago: Les Enluminures, 2011), p. 15.

Illuminated New Testament in Latin
Verona, Italy, ca. 1215
(193 x 115 mm)

Verona, Italy, ca. 1215. Probably used by lay people and member of a confraternity.[1] Erwin Rosenthal (1889-1981), bookseller, Zürich until 1942; Privately purchased in 1942 by James P.R. Lyell (1871-1949), private book collector, England;[2] Privately purchased in 1952 by Bernard Quaritch, Ltd, bookseller, London;[3] Privately purchased in 1952 by Harry Lawrence Bradfer-Lawrence (1887-1965), private collector, Yorkshire, England; Deposited in 1965 in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, until 1984.[4] Privately purchased in 1984 by Quaritch; Privately purchased in 1985 by Laurence C. Witten II, private collector, Connecticut until 1989; Purchased at auction in 1989 by Martin Schøyen, bookseller, Norway;[5] Privately purchased in the 2000s by Jörn Günther, bookseller, Switzerland until 2012;[6] Privately purchased in 2012 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City; Donated in 2014 to the Museum of the Bible

Notes: [1] Manuscripts containing the entire New Testament first appeared at the end of the 12th century and were produced primarily in the region between France and northern Italy. They had no obvious liturgical function, but rather were used by laypeople outside of a formal worship setting. This manuscript shares similar handwriting styles (e.g. a unique “e” and “c” using a double stroke in contrasting color) with other items produced in Verona during this same period. See Eleen Luba, “A Thirteenth-Century Worship of Miniature Painters in Veneto,” Arte Veneta 39 (1985), 9-21 and Avril François and Marie-Thérèse Gosset, Manuscrits enluminés d’origine italienne, 2. XIIIe siècle, Paris 1984, no 169, pl.C. [2] This was manuscript no. 49 in Lyell’s collection. Lyell left many items in his collection to the Bodleian library in Oxford. The rest were purchased by Quaritch. [3] Quaritch catalogue no. 699 (1952). [4] See Phyllis M. Giles, “A Handlist of the Bradfer-Lawrence Manuscripts Deposited on Loan at the Fitzwilliam Museum,” Transactions of the Cambridge Bibliographical Society 6.2 (1973), 90. [5] Sotheby’s, London, December 5, 1989, Lot 76. This item became ms. 606 in the Schøyen collection. [6] See Jörn Günther Rare Books, Catalogue 10, Pagina Sacra (Sarnen, Switzerland: Abächerli Druck, 2011), 54-56.

Leaf from the 'Psalter of St. Romuald'
Northern Italy, mid-ninth century
(316 x 212 mm)

Sometimes perception is more important than fact, as in the case of this leaf from a Carolingian psalter that ended up in a monastery at Camaldoli, Tuscany. A century after this manuscript was copied, St. Romuald, founded the monastery and became its first abbot. After his death, his successor, St. Peter Damian, wrote a biography of St. Romuald. In it, he claimed that Romuald had a dream in which God commanded him to make a psalter with commentary. [1] Many years later, monks found this psalter in their library, and since it had no date to prove otherwise, they assumed that this was St. Romuald’s psalter, and the tradition continued through the centuries. Jean Mabillon saw the psalter in the sacristy of the monastery of Camaldoli, in March 1686 and recorded the belief of the community at Camaldoli that it had been written by the saint himself. It is unclear from his writing whether the manuscript was complete at that time. [2] In 1750, a German visitor to Camaldoli, Magnoald Ziegelbauer, wrote a description of the monastery’s library, Centifolium Camaldulense, in which he mentions that superstitious people had removed several leaves of the psalter as relics. [3] The early eighteenth-century paper label at the top of the fragment records that Giovanni di Poggio Baldovinetti (1695-1772) discovered it along with other relics and showed it to the Florentine antiquary Domenico Manni (1690-1788), who apparently added it to his collection. Aldo Olschki (1893-1963) acquired the leaf with other items formerly owned by Domenico Manni. The leaf appears in Bookhands of the Middle Ages V cat.1147 (1991), no.5 by Rosenthal and Quaritch. Martin Schøyen acquired it, listing it as MS 620; Sotheby’s auctioned it for Schøyen on July 10, 2012, [4] when the Green Collection acquired it; The Green Collection donated it to Museum of the Bible in 2013.

Notes: [1] Petrus Damianus, Vita Sancti Romualdi Abbatis, MLT columns 995-996(PDF). The commentary (also in a Carolingian hand) partly comes from Jerome Migne, Patrologia latina v. 26 beginning with column 1125 for Psalm 99:3) with other commentary mixed in. [2] Jean Mabillon, Museum Italicum, 1687, II, p.181 (input the number 181 to find the page) [3] p. 71. Ziegelbauer said that the manuscript was complete from Psalm 1-90, but the line he quoted as ending it is actually 99:3 “scitote quoniam Dominus ipse est Deus,” which means that our fragment was the very next page. The fragment, therefore was removed before 1750. [4]

Four Gospel Book, in Latin
Illuminated manuscript on cow-vellum, France
ca. mid-11th century CE
(202 x 142 x 43 mm)

Brittany, France, mid-11th century CE. Benedictine monastery of St. Sauveur-le-Vicomte, Normandy, by the 14th century. [1] Possibly acquired by Charles de Montchal (1589–1651), Archbishop of Toulouse. [2] Theodore Williams (1785–1875), a minister in England, until 1827. Purchased at auction in 1827 by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872). [3] By bequest to the Robinson Trust until 1975; Sold at auction in 1975 to a private collector in Switzerland. [4] Privately purchased by Jörn Günther Rare Books until 2012; Privately purchased in 2012 by the Green Collection until 2013; Donated to MOTB in 2013.

Notes: [1] Several inscriptions identify the manuscript as belonging to the monastery. See, for example, fol. 1, 73v, and 133v. [2] Many of the texts at St. Sauveur passed into the hands of Montchal. It is possible that the item here is the Codex CXCIV described in Montfaucon, Bibliotheca Bibliothecarum Manuscriptorum Nova II (Paris 1739), p. 905. [3] Stewart, Wheatley, and Adlard, A Catalogue of the Splendid and Valuable Library of The Rev. Theodore Williams (London: Stewart, Wheatley, and Adlard, 1827), p. 51. [4] Sotheby’s, November 26, 1975, lot. 817.

The Hours and Psalter of Elizabeth de Bohun, Countess of Northampton
Illuminated manuscript, England, probably Cambridge
Between 1330 and 1335 (Hours) and ca. 1340 (Psalter)
(292 x 205 mm; 177 leaves)

A beautiful 14th century illuminated manuscript made for a member of an English noble family with royal connections, Elizabeth Baddlesmere (1313-1356) and her husbands, Sir Edmund Mortimer (d. 1331), and William de Bohun (d.1360), first Earl of Northampton, Constable of England, and grandson of Edward I. Their descendants include Henry V, Edward IV, and Anne Boleyn. The coats of arms of the Baddlesmeres and Mortimers appear at the beginning of the Hours, but the arms of all three families appear at the beginning of the Psalter. The manuscript then passed into the hands of the family of Sir John Clifton (d. 1447) whose wife, Lady Joan Clifton, donated the manuscript to the Dominican Priory in Norwich, England in 1450, according to an inscription in the front. [1] According to a note on one of the flyleaves, the manuscript was rebound in 1511, at a time when it was under Dominican control. (See below for more information from the same note.) The Briggs family of Salle, outside of Norwich acted as executors of John Clifton’s will, two members of the family, William Briggs and Thomas Briggs became priors of the abbey. The latter was the prior when Henry VIII suppressed the abbey in 1538, and may have taken control of the manuscript. Thomas Briggs served as a chaplain of Queen Mary, and may have made the notation in the calendar for October 29 recording the fact that “John Hopton, formerly of the Order of Preachers was consecrated bishop of Norwich on the 28th of October” (1554). Both Briggs and Hopton were active in Queen Mary’s heresy trials. [2] In the 18th century, someone pasted a note on a flyleaf that identifies the manuscript as “Psalter & figures, 1000 Yrs. old or more, in Marcus Antonius Emp.” In the 19th century, the manuscript belonged to E. Wyndham Esq. who had James Martin, a London bookbinder, rebind it into its current binding in 1824. [3] John Jacob Astor III (1822-1890) acquired it, [4] and in December 1883 loaned it to an exhibition in New York to raise funds for the building of the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. The number 1209, its exhibit number, is pasted near the bottom of f.52v, which indicates that the exhibit featured the Beatus initial on the facing page. [5] Astor’s son, William Waldorf Astor (1848-1919) inherited the manuscript in 1890, after which he moved to London and became a British citizen. The manuscript stayed in the family possession until 1966 when the Trustees of the Astor estate placed it in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. In June 1988, it sold at Sotheby’s to Bernard Quaritch [6], and then quickly entered the collection of Ladislaus von Hoffmann. He put the book up for auction in 2010, but it did not sell [7]. The Green Collection purchased the manuscript through a private sale in 2013. The Green Collection donated it to MOTB in 2015.

Notes: [1] Rev. C. F. R. Palmer, “The Friar-Preachers or Blackfriars, of Norwich,” The Reliquary and Illustrated Archaeologist: A Quarterly Journal, v. 3 (1889), pp. 42–49; 98–103. See p. 44 for Clifton’s legacy. [2] Ralph Houlbrooke, “The Clergy, the Church Courts and the Marian Restoration in Norwich,” in The Church of Mary Tudor, ed. Eamon Duffy and David Loades (Ashgate, 2006), pp. 124–146; also available at The Church of Mary Tudor. [3] C. Ramsden, London Bookbinders, 1780-1840 (Balsford, 1956), p. 104. [4] Apparently, he acquired it from Bernard Quaritch. It is listed retrospectively in Quaritch’s A General Catalogue of Books, II, 1887, pp. 1337-8, no. 13440. [5] Catalogue of the Pedestal Fund Art Loan Exhibit at the National Academy of Design, (New York, 1883) p. 40, no. 1209. . It was one of several manuscripts he loaned for the exhibit. Emma Lazarus composed her poem “The New Colossus” for the exhibit. The poem, with its famous words, “Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free ... ” premiered on page 27 of the same catalogue. [6] A preview of the Sotheby’s sale of items from the Astor estate appeared in the Chicago Tribune on June 15, 1988. The New York Times reported on June 24 that it had “sold to Bernard Quaritch, a London dealer, for $2.7 million—a record for an English manuscript.” [7]

Prayer Book for the Young Charles V
Belgium, Ghent or Bruges; illuminations from the school of Simon Bening, ca. 1516-1517
(172 x 120 mm; 38 leaves, plus 4 contemporary end leaves)

This small, beautifully illuminated manuscript was made for the young Charles V (1500-1558) shortly before his election as Holy Roman Emperor (1519). The coat of arms on the front page includes those of his offices as titular duke of Burgundy, Brabant and Lothier (held from 1506), king of Castile and Leon, and of Aragon and Sicily (from 1516) and with the pomegranate of Granada (also held from 1516), but not those of the king of the Romans (from 1519; i.e., the official title of the Holy Roman Emperor) or Navarre or Naples (both 1520). The text is in two distinct humanistic hands, and the illuminations present a program of images stressing sacrifice, the sacraments, and humility. [1] At the end of the text the coat of arms of Cardinal Matthias Schinner appear (ca. 1465-1522.) Schinner was the Swiss bishop of Sion and Novara, a papal legate, a diplomat, and a general. Schinner’s coat of arms suggests that Charles V gave the prayer book to him to thank him for his role in helping Charles to be elected emperor. [2] According to inscriptions inside the cover, the book was given in 1586 by the Sieur Jene Cottrell to his “niepche” “Madame de Lathienloy gouvenante de la ville Bethune” in Artois, an area within the Spanish Netherlands at the time. Other notes in the flyleaves record births and marriages of members of the de la Tramerye family, down to the late 17th century including François de la Tramerye gouverneur des ville et chateau d’Aire, near St. Omer, Pas-de-Calais. By this time France was trying to claim the territory. [3] The English merchant banker and bibliophile, Henry Huth (1815-1878) acquired the manuscript in the 19th century. His bookplate is on the front paste down leaf. The book was sold by his heirs at Sotheby’s on July 11, 1917 as lot number 5967 to Maggs Bros., Ltd. of London. Maggs listed the manuscript in their catalogue number 380 (1919) as item number 380. Colonel Sir William Thomlinson (1854-1943) acquired it next. [4] Thomlinson sold it through Sotheby’s to Maggs again for ₤200 on February 21, 1938. The French auction house Drouot sold it to a private collector in April 1969. The Green Collection acquired it in 2014; The Green Collection donated the manuscript to the National Christian Foundation which has granted Museum of the Bible permission to put it on display.

Notes: [1] [2] For Schinner’s role in the politics of the 16th century, see A History of the Papacy During the Period of the Reformation: The Italian princes. 1464-1518, Mandell Creighton (1887), pp. 117, 127, 142, 209-210, 219 [3] François de la Tramerye may be the same person named by Charles II of Spain as one of his lieutenants to govern nearby Douai after the death of Charles’ cousin the Comte de Reulx: Sceaux armoríes des Pays-Bas et des pays avoisinants (See the small type on p. 49, left column) This places the prayer book near the actions in Louis XIV’s campaigns to claim the Spanish Netherlands during the War of Devolution (1667-1668) and later campaigns. [4] Thomlinson also collected Chinese porcelain, auctioned at Christie’s Nov. 2, 1943.

Incunabula and Printed Books

For centuries, the rare book trade has only infrequently tracked provenance information. Even incunables (books printed before 1501) are often bought and sold without ownership history being passed on. Museum of the Bible has researched each item in its collection, documented purchase history, and, where applicable, indicated donation history to the museum. Identifying marks, such as bookplates, previous owner’s signatures, library deaccession stamps, etc., have been documented for each item and will be made available to researchers as the collection database is digitized. Books that are particularly rare and important but that lack a clear twentieth-century provenance have been researched through the Art Loss Register and other Holocaust research resources to ensure that they were not subject to Nazi-era looting.

The New Testament, in English, Tyndale
London 1552
(210 × 171 × 32 mm)

Richard Jugge ( – 1577), printer, London, 1552. William Yates ( – 1829), private collector, Manchester, England; Purchased at auction in 1829 by Charles Hurt (1782-1852), private collector, Wirksworth, England.[1] John Howell (1874-1956), bookseller, San Francisco by 1856; By descent to Warren Howell (1912-1984), bookseller, San Francisco; Privately purchased in 1983-84 by Donald L. Brake Sr. (1939 – ), scholar and private collector, Portland, Oregon;[2] Privately purchased in 1998 by Joshua Brown, private collector, San Luis Obispo, California. Doyle W. Flowers, Jr. (1957-2017), bookseller, Hinesville, Georgia until 2009; Privately purchased in 2009 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City

Notes: [1] A handwritten note on the front end paper states that this book was purchased on by behalf of Hurt at an auction of Yates’ estate in August 1829. See also Winstanley & Taylor, Catalogue of the household furniture, antique oak furniture ... pictures and portraits, extensive library of books ... the genuine property of Mr. William Yates...: which will be sold by auction ... on Wednesday, July 29th, 1829, and following days (Stony-Knolls, Broughton: R. Winstanley, 1829). [2] Brake is a biblical studies scholar and formerly the dean of Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Oregon. Beginning in the 1980s, he amassed on of the largest private collections of rare Bible and manuscripts. He stated in an email that he purchased the text at Howell’s sometime in 1983-84 and sold it to Brown in 1998 to raise money for another acquisition. It is not clear when or from whom Howell acquired the text. Donald L. Brake, Sr., email to D.A. Schmidt (MOTB), November 29, 2017.

King James Authorized Version (The Great “He” Bible)
England 1611 CE
(413 × 292 × 108 mm)

London, England, 1611. A. Edward Newton (1864-1940), New York, ca. 1924. [1] Carrie Estelle Doheny (1875-1958), Los Angeles, California. [2] Gifted between 1940 and 1958 to St. John’s Seminary Camarillo, California until 1987. Purchased by Lou Weinstein, Beverly Hills, until 2010; Privately purchased by Green Collection in 2010

Notes: [1] A stamp on the front free endpaper indicates that this book belonged at some point to A. Edward Newton, a prominent American book collector. Handwritten notes from Newton, Quaritch and Francis Fry confirm the book’s authenticity and are dated 1924, suggesting the book was in Newton’s collection at least until then. [2] Another stamp on the front free endpaper indicates that the book was also part of the famous collection of Carrie Estelle Doheny. When and where Doheny acquired it is not clear at this time.

The Byble in Englyshe ("The Great Bible")
London (England), 1539 CE
(394 × 305 × 38 mm)

London, England, 1539. Richard Lovett (1851–1904), England, until 1904; [1] Purchased at auction in London by Edward Peterson (1869–1943), banker from Stratford, Iowa, until 1943; [2] By descent to Harriet Lundquist, daughter, until 2007; [3] Purchased at auction in 2007 by David C. Lachman, bookseller, Philadelphia until 2010; Privately purchased by Green Collection in 2010.

Notes: [1] A handwritten note (undated and unsigned) on the front free endpaper states that it was from a “Mr. Lovett’s Library.” This probably refers to Rev. Richard Lovett (1851–1904), whose collection, which included a 1539 Bible, was auctioned by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge in 1907. The description in the auction catalogue matches that written in the present text. [2] A newspaper article from the Des Moines Register (John Karras, ‘The Great Bible’ [unknown date]) notes that Harriet Lundquist inherited the Bible through her father Edward Peterson, who purchased the Bible at a London auction sometime at the turn of the 20th century. It is highly likely, given the timeframe and description, that he purchased it in 1907. [3] Lundquist sold the Bible at auction through Jackson’s on December 5, 2007, lot 0855.

The Byble, Thomas Matthews
London 1549
(298 × 241 × 44 mm)

John Rogers (aka Thomas Matthews), London, 1549. Possibly acquired by Rev. Thomas Clarke (1752-1797), Vicar of Holy Trinity Church in Hull, England.[1] John Todd ( –1811), bookseller in York, in 1798; Thomas Payne (1752–1831), bookseller in London, in 1799; Emerson Charnley (1781 – 1845), bookseller, Newcastle by 1805;[2] Purchased in 1810 by Rev. John Brewster (1753-1842), Rector of Egglescliffe.[3] Purchased by Newcastle-upon-Tyne Public Libraries by 1911.[4] Deaccessioned by Newcastle-upon-Tyne Public Libraries by the 1990s.[5] Dr. John R. Kelly, private collector in Boalsburg, Pennsylvania, until 2010; Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection until 2014; Donated to the Museum of the Bible in 2014

Notes: [1] Thomas Clarke was a noted bibliophile and, for a time, president of the Hull Subscription Library. It is likely this book was part of his collection, which was auctioned upon his death in 1797 and purchased by the subsequent owner. [2] John Brewster, who purchased this item in 1810, provided a handwritten list of these booksellers and their catalogue descriptions on the front flyleaf of the book. See John Todd, J. Todd’s Catalogue for 1798 (London: Baldwin, 1798), 196, no. 6557 and Thomas Payne, A Catalogue of Valuable Books (London: Thomas Payne, 1799), 36, no. 933. [3] Brewster’s book plate is on the front flyleaf of the book. In addition to information regarding the text’s previous owners, he also provides a handwritten short essay on its publication history. [4] The library refers to the text in its Thirteenth Report of the Public Libraries Committee, 1910-1911 (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Doig Bros. & Co., 1911), 3. [5] Sarah Mulligan (Newcastle Library Information Officer), email to D.A. Schmidt (MOTB), November 29, 2017.

The Byble in Englyshe ("The Great Bible")
London (England), 1539 CE
(39.4 × 30.5 × 3.8 cm)

London, England, 1539. S. Barker & Company, Leicester, England by 1902. [1] Privately purchased by David C. Lachman, bookseller, Philadelphia until 2011; Privately purchased by Green Collection in 2011.

Note: [1] A postcard is attached to the back endpaper, dated September 17, 1902, and addressed from Canon H. S. Gedge to S. Barker of Willington St., Leicester, England. The latter is probably S. Barker & Co., a publishing company of the same address, who evidently reached out to the local rector for information regarding the item.

La Biblia, translated by Cipriano de Valera, in Spanish
Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 1602 CE
(292 × 203 × 57 mm)

Cipriano de Valera (1532–1606), Amsterdam (The Netherlands), 1602. From the royal library of Maria Cristina (1858–1929), Queen of Spain, by the late-19th century. [1] Alejandro Ganado (unknown), Argentina. [2] Natalio Botana (1888–1941), Argentina. Private collection until 2009. [3] Purchased by Andrew Stimer, private collector, Camarillo, California in 2009 until 2014. Privately purchased by Green Collection in 2014.

Notes: [1] The front free endpaper of the text features the royal bookplate of Maria Cristina of Spain and a call number. A handwritten note on the next page also records that this copy once belonged to the queen. [2] In an undated, handwritten note in Spanish on the front free endpaper, two individuals named “Juana y Delia Borbón” (the name is partially illegible) give the book to an Alejandro Ganado. [3] The front free endpaper also features a personalized “ex libris” stamp identifying the text as once belonging to the Natalio Botana, a controversial political journalist in Argentina.

Biblia Latina
Lyon, France 1542
(184 x 142 x 52 mm)

Guillaume Boulle, Lyon, France, 1542.[1] Purchased in 1547 by Sophonias Paminger (1526-1603), German educator and composer.[2] Private collector, Leipzig, Saxony, by 1798. Theodor Oswald Weigel, bookseller, Leipzig by 1924.[3] Privately purchased by Frederick H. von Schleinitz (1915-1995), private collector, Wisconsin, in 1950.[4] Privately purchased by Jörn Günther - Rare Books AG, bookseller, Stalden, Switzerland until 2012; Privately purchased in 2012 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City

Notes: [1] Even though this Bible was intended to be sold in France or Spain, according to the binding it was apparently in Wittenberg by 1544. Martin Luther inscribed the front pastedown for an unknown owner, quoting the Bible verse Hosea 2:16-17. Because Luther accentuated the singing within the text with capitals and underlining, it is likely that the owner was a musician. [2] Paminger’s inscription on the front pastedown states that he bought the Bible on August 21, 1547. It is not clear if he purchased the text from the original owner or from that owner’s estate. [3] See Oswald Weigel, Auktionskatalog, Neue Folge 132, Leipzig 1924, p. 14f. [4] Von Schleinitz exhibited this book at the Lutheran Laymen’s League conference in Colorado Springs in 1954. See “Martin Luther Bible Shown by Manitou Book Collector,” and “Bible Owned by Luther Exhibited at Film Showing,” in the Colorado Springs Gazette Telegraph, May, 1954. He claimed to have purchased the text in Zürich.

The Gospel of John and Gospel Tracts in Karen
Myanmar 1838
(190 × 105 × 25 mm)

Adoniram Judson (1788-1850), Myanmar (formerly Burma), 1838;[1] Abner Webb (1804-1891), missionary and colleague of Judson, Oakland, California until 1891.[2] Private dealer until the 1990s.[3] Purchased in the 1990s by Andrew Stimer, private collector, Camarillo, California; Purchased in 2016 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City

Notes: [1] This text was translated into Karen by the highly influential missionary Adoniram Judson and his colleagues while working at a mission station in what was then Burma. It was printed in Tavoy, a town in the Southeast now known as Dawei. So far as current research can determine, this is the only surviving copy of the original edition. [2] Webb worked alongside Judson in Burma until returning to the U.S. and settling in California. This was his personal copy. Toward the end of his life, he wrote a note on the first page, “Karen Tracts & John's Gospel / Abner Webb / Fruitvale E. Oakland Cal. / 1st edition ever printed. / Preserve this carefully. / Printed about 1838. / Abner Webb. 1886.” [3] The private dealer is unnamed by the dealer subsequent dealer.

Gutenberg Bible Leaf, La Biblia, I Samuel 20-22, in Latin
Germany, ca. 1454 CE
(365 x 302 x 11 mm)

Johann Gutenberg, Mainz, Germany, ca. 1454. Jonathan Byrd’s Rare Books, Goodyear, Arizona; Privately purchased by Green Collection in 2010; Donated to MOTB in 2012.

Novum Instrumentum Omne
Basel 1516
(279 × 229 × 25 mm)

Desiderius Erasmus (1467-1536), Basel, Switzerland, 1516. Hellmut Albert Feisenberger (1909-1999), London bookseller, probably in the 1930s;[1] Privately purchased by Carrie Estelle Doheny (1875-1958) private collector, Los Angeles, California until 1947;[2] Donated in 1947 to St. Mary’s Seminary, Perryville, Missouri until 1994; Purchased at auction in 1994 by a private collector;[3] Purchased at auction in 2001 by Lou Weinstein, Beverly Hills until 2010; Privately purchased in 2010 by the Green Collection, Oklahoma City, until 2012; Donated in 2012 to the Museum of the Bible

Notes: [1] H.A. Feisenberger was a prominent bookseller who moved to London from his native Germany in 1933. He partnered with Irving Davis shortly thereafter and began acquiring a broad range of rare books until the start of World War II in 1939. It is likely he purchased this book at that time. [2] Carrie Estelle Doheny, the famous Los Angelis bibliophile, did not provide a date for her purchase of this book. It is likely that she acquired it in the 1940s. [3] Christie’s, London, March 30, 1994, Lot 3. [4] Christie’s, New York, December 14, 2001, Lot 159. Lou Weinstein operated a rare book shop in Beverly Hills for 44 years, selling the shop in 2007 but continuing private sales from his new home in Hawaii.

Rheims New Testament
France 1582
(216 × 184 × 32 mm)

Rheims, France, 1582.[1] Acquired in 1583 by Thomas Gerard (1564-1618), 1st Baron of Gerard.[2] Acquired in 1675 by Thomas Renshaw.[3] Acquired in the 2000s by David C. Lachman, bookseller, Philadelphia, until 2011; Privately purchased in 2011 by the Green Collection until 2014; Donated in 2014 to the Museum of the Bible.

Notes: [1] The Rheims New Testament was translated into English from the Vulgate in 1582 by English Catholics living in exile in France. They would eventually publish the Old Testament in 1609-1610. [2] Gerard was a soldier, Member of Parliament, and Lord President of the Council of Wales. He was also a close ally of the Earl of Essex, a powerful figure in Tudor England. This text is identified as being in Gerard’s possession by his signature is on the flyleaf, recto. [3] Another inscription on the flyleaf helpfully states in Latin, “This was bought the 13th August 1675, by me Thomas Renshaw.” His dates and place of residence are unknown.


The Museum Collections display a large number of items that demonstrate the impact of the Bible in people’s everyday lives. Many of those objects were produced in the United States. For unique items, such as letters or manuscripts, ownership history has been reviewed and documented to the fullest extent possible. Most items, however, come from private collections or book dealers, sources which have not historically kept provenance documentation on these everyday objects. This makes further research extremely difficult.

Julia Ward Howe, "The Battle Hymn of the Republic"
United States, 1861 CE
(4 pages, 4to, in ink, on stationary of the Sanitary Commission, Washington, DC)

Julia Ward Howe (1819-1910), Willard Hotel, Washington, DC, the night of November 18–19, 1861. Gifted to Charlotte Whipple, the author’s biographer. William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951). David Magee (1905–1977), San Francisco bookseller. Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc. between 1959 and 1974. [1] Hon. J. William Middendorf II (1924–).Malcom Forbes [1919–1990]. Purchased at auction in 2012 by Green Collection until 2014; [2] Donated to MOTB in 2014.

Notes: [1] See Kenneth W. Rendell, Inc., Autographs and Manuscripts: The American Civil War (Somerville, MA: Kinston Galleries, Inc., 1974), item 192. [2] Sotheby’s, December 7, 2012, lot 43.

Objects with Incomplete Provenance

Dead Sea Scroll Fragments

Since their initial discoveries in the late 1940s and 1950s, the origins and authenticity of the “Dead Sea Scrolls” have been widely debated. The storied Bedouin discovery of ancient Hebrew manuscripts in the Judean desert was quickly followed by questions of authenticity. Even the earliest scholars involved—like Roland de Vaux—recall seeing forged fragments in the 1950s. This early research took many years, and only a few scholars had access to the fragments for decades. It was not until the 1990s that the research was expanded to include a wider range of scholars. Beginning in 2002, dozens of additional fragments surfaced and ended up in the collections of universities, museums, and private collectors. Initially, many assumed that these fragments came from the Kando family, one of the first dealers to work with the Bedouin to bring the scrolls to light. This would suggest that any fragment purchased from this family could be traced back to the original cave discoveries. Recently, however, scholars have found puzzling features in these “new” fragments, including some of the fragments in the Museum Collections, which calls the story of these newly-found fragments into question. The Museum of the Bible fragments were published by Emanuel Tov, Kipp Davis, and Robert Duke in Dead Sea Scrolls Fragments in the Museum Collection, (Leiden: Brill, 2016). This book outlines the scrolls’ acquisition history: “The fragments were purchased on behalf of Mr. Steven Green in four lots from four private collectors at the following times and received in Oklahoma City shortly thereafter:

  1. Four in November 2009: MOTB.SCR.000120 (Exodus), MOTB.SCR.000121 (Psalms), MOTB.SCR.000122 (Leviticus?), MOTB.SCR.000123 (Instruction)
  2. One in February 2010: MOTB.SCR.000124 (Genesis)
  3. Seven in May 2010: MOTB.SCR.003170 (Daniel), MOTB.SCR.003171 (Jonah), MOTB.SCR.003172 (Jeremiah), MOTB.SCR.003173 (Numbers), MOTB.SCR.003174 (Ezekiel), MOTB.SCR.003175 (Nehemiah), MOTB.SCR.003183 (Micah),
  4. One in October 2014 and received in Oklahoma City in June 2015: NCF.SCR.004742 (Leviticus)”

The find-spot for these fragments is unknown: “Unfortunately, little is known about the provenance of these fragments because most sellers did not provide such information at the time of the sale . . . they are not connected to either excavations of Bedouin, and several new collections of this type face the same problem.”

The four fragments acquired in 2009 were exhibited in the US between 2004 and 2009, with photos published in the exhibition catalog, in The Dead Sea Scrolls to the Bible in America: A Brief History of the Bible from Antiquity to Modern America: Told Through Ancient Manuscripts and Early European and American Printed Bible (Biblical Arts of Arizona, 2004).

Scholars continue to investigate the dozens of newly-discovered fragments in collections throughout the world. A history of the scrolls’ discovery, with special focus on the newly-available fragments, is provided in Hanan Eshel, “The Fate of the Scrolls and Fragments: A Survey from 1946 to the Present” and in Torlief Elgvin, Kipp Davis, and Michael Langlois, eds., Gleanings from the Caves. Dead Sea Scrolls and Artifacts from the Schøyen Collection (London: Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2016). A 2017 issue of the journal Dead Sea Discoveries focuses specifically on the issue of potential forgeries among these fragments raising further doubts, compounded by the lack of credible provenance. See Kipp Davis, Ira Rabin, Ines Feldman, Myriam Krutzsch, Hasia Rimon, Årstein Justnes, Torleif Elgvin; Michael Langlois, “Nine Dubious ‘Dead Sea Scrolls’ Fragments from the Twenty-First Century,” pp. 189-228; Eibert Tigchelaar, “A Provisional List of Unprovenanced, Twenty-First Century Dead Sea Scrolls-like Fragments,” pp. 173–88; and Kipp Davis, “Caves of Dispute,” pp. 229-270. Based on analysis of the parchment, handwriting, ink, letter forms, layout, and correspondences to modern printed texts, Davis argues that MOTB.SCR.003170, MOTB.SCR.003170, MOTB.SCR.003171, MOTB.SCR.003172, MOTB.SCR.003173, MOTB.SCR.003175, MOTB.SCR.003183 in particular show “puzzling correspondences and alarmingly suspicious features in these fragments [that] should at least disqualify them from discussion as genuine textual artefacts from antiquity and prompt further, urgent investigation into their provenance.”

Museum of the Bible supports additional research on these fragments. The provenance continues to be investigated by curatorial staff. In addition, scientific analysis of the ink has been conducted, with results expected by early 2018. The following fragments from the Museum Collections are displayed in the History of the Bible floor: MOTB.SCR.000124, MOTB.SCR.003171, MOTB.SCR.003173, MOTB.SCR.003175, NCF.SCR.004742.

Early Jewish Prayer Book

Siddur (Prayer Book)

This item was acquired in good faith in 2013 after receiving what appeared to be acceptable provenance information dating back to the 1950s in the UK. The item was understood to have been legally exported from the UK. It has been displayed in the US and overseas as well as published in exhibition catalogs. Subsequently, internal MOTB curatorial research discovered published images of the book from 1997, in which the book appears to have been photographed in Afghanistan. Subsequent research has not yet determined the find-spot or history of the item prior to 1997 or between 1997 and 2013. This research continues.

Nevertheless, this Siddur is an exceptional item of unique historical, cultural, and religious significance, and has great educational potential. Accordingly, until ongoing provenance information sheds further light on the history of this prayer book, the item will be listed on the AAMD’s Object Registry of museum items with incomplete provenance (New Acquisitions of Archaeological Material and Works of Ancient Art ). In addition to ongoing provenance research, a book project is underway at MOTB, with contributions from specialists in handwriting, manuscript production, Jewish and Afghan history, and Jewish liturgical practices. This book project will make this Siddur available for research and enable additional contributions to the study of this one-of-a-kind manuscript. In the meantime, the Siddur will be displayed in the museum in Washington, DC, with a brief description of the provenance issues on the object label.

Torah Scrolls

Torah scrolls have been essential to Jewish communal life for centuries. Torah scrolls were carefully prepared and, after the end of their useful life, retired and stored in a “genizah.” As Jewish communities moved over the centuries throughout the Middle East, Europe, Asia, and then to North and South America, their scrolls traveled with them. From the 1950s through the 1990s, the Israeli government conducted several “rescue” missions to gather Torah scrolls from Europe and around the world. Many were later given to synagogues, while others became available to collectors. Museum of the Bible has gathered approximately 2,000 such scrolls, dating from the 16th through the 20th centuries, one of the largest collections in the world. These scrolls have been appropriately retired from use (“decommissioned”), and are preserved in abiding respect for their historical, cultural, and religious significance. Some of the scrolls among the Museum Collections tell fascinating stories. For example, one of these scrolls was commissioned by a Jewish community in Poland. Decades later, it traveled to Brooklyn, New York, where a synagogue stamped the scroll in 1910. From there, it went to Israel. These stamps and other identifying marks on the scrolls give us exciting clues about the communities that used them for centuries. Museum of the Bible curators and scholars continue to investigate the history of each scroll, unraveling and revealing their unique stories.


Jewish faith is celebrated at home as well as in the synagogue. Ritual items, or Judaica, are the beautifully crafted objects used to celebrate Jewish holidays. The objects are chosen, cared for, and passed from generation to generation, keeping alive the warm memories of Shabbat dinners, lighting Hanukkah candles, and celebrating Passover Seders. Kiddush cups, Seder plates, spice boxes, challah knives, and more were lovingly made by artisans and cherished by Jewish families for generations.

As the Green Collection began to search for artifacts that told the story of the history of the Bible, it was natural to gather these types of items from the antique markets of Jerusalem, a center for Jewish art and antiques. From the first Jewish pioneers before WWI to the families who made their way from Europe to Israel after WWII, all manner of Judaica arrived in Jerusalem over the decades and eventually entered the market. Similarly, Jewish agencies recovered and gathered unclaimed Judaica from Germany, Poland, and other countries, and sent these objects to communities and museums in Israel. From this abundance of ritual Judaica, the Green Collection has gathered examples that both illustrate Jewish history and celebrate its creative spirit. Given the nature of the processes by which these objects came to be gathered, sold and re-sold in Israel, little, if any, documentation is available for most objects. Research is proceeding where possible, such as on objects with unique markings and those that can stylistically be placed in a certain geographic location or time period.