Preserving a slice of history from the Old Library

Volume I open at title page, Volume II in protective book shoe

After renovation


Thanks to the generosity of one of our alumni, Christ’s College has been able to conserve a slice of history held within the Old Library.  Recently back from the Cambridge Colleges’ Conservation Consortium after undergoing restoration, this copy of the Bible in Hebrew, printed in Venice in 1517, was originally donated by St John Fisher, spiritual mentor of Christ’s foundress Lady Margaret Beaufort.  After 502 years of existence, a restored cover, a book ‘shoe’ for protection, restoration of some creased pages, and careful cleaning has helped preserve this book for the future.

As John Wagstaff, College Librarian, outlines in his blog post ‘A Saint’s Bible’, this text is of historical interest for a number of reasons.  Firstly, John Fisher’s knowledge of Hebrew was notable for this era, and he used that knowledge alongside powerful figures such as King Henry VIII to counter the Lutheran ideas which were beginning to spread across England in the 1520s.  Secondly, this Bible tells part of the tale of Fisher’s turbulent relationship with King Henry VIII – initially stalwart allies defending Catholicism in the face of Lutheran ideas; ultimately the execution of Fisher by King Henry after Fisher’s opposition to both the King’s divorce of Catherine of Aragon and his desire to be the head of the Church of England.

We are thrilled to have been able to preserve this important historical work, which encapsulates such a rich story, through the generosity of a Christ’s alumnus.