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For immediate release: May 24, 2002

Contact: Marilyn Marks, 609-258-3601 or mmarks@princeton.edu 

Media advisory: Princeton University to display first four printed Bibles

PRINCETON, N.J. -- In a one-day display May 31, Princeton University will exhibit the world's first four printed Bibles: the Gutenberg Bible, the Mentelin Bible, the 36-Line Bible and the 1462 Bible. The rare Bibles are owned by William H. Scheide, who houses the collection in the Scheide Library at Princeton.

Scheide, a Princeton resident and Princeton University alumnus, is only the third private collector to own all four Bibles, following King George III and the second Earl Spencer, the great-great-great-grandfather of the late Diana, Princess of Wales. A passionate bibliophile and musicologist, Scheide has built on a remarkable book collection begun after the Civil War by his grandfather and continued by his father.

The Bibles will be on display from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the lobby of Firestone Library. Princeton President Shirley M. Tilghman will make remarks about 11 a.m.

"The acquisition of these Bibles over more than 75 years is a remarkable example of steady purpose and commitment by Bill Scheide and his father, and is a milestone in the history of book collecting by any standard," said University Librarian Karin Trainer. "We are thrilled to be able to share these Bibles with others."

Over the years, the Scheide book collection has emphasized the history of the Bible and the invention of printing ­ two themes which come together in the Princeton display.

Two of the Bibles were purchased by Scheide's father, John H. Scheide, including the Gutenberg Bible, which was printed in Mainz about 1455-1456 and was the first substantial book to be printed from moveable types in Europe. Forty-nine copies of the 158 or 180 printed­ there are conflicting reports ­ survive. The Scheide copy, printed on paper, originally was sold in the university town of Erfurt, where it was finely illuminated and bound. Its first owner probably was the Dominican convent in Erfurt where the Bible remained until 1873, when it was brought to the United States by collector George Brinley. The invoice from London book dealer Henry Stevens advised Brinley's New York agents to "let none of Uncle Samuel's Custom House OfficialsÖsee it without first reverentially lifting their hats." John Scheide acquired the Bible in 1924.

One year later, he acquired the 1462 Bible, printed in Mainz by Johann Fust and Peter Schoeffer. This Bible, printed on vellum and with beautiful illumination, is one of about 80 surviving copies. Over the years, it passed through the libraries of Earl Spencer and the Duke of Sussex, the son of King George.

William Scheide added to the collection with his purchase of the 36-line Bible printed in Bamberg in 1461 or before. Only 14 copies survive, all on paper. Scheide's copy once belonged to the Benedictines of Würzburg, whose convent was dissolved in 1803, and to Earl Spencer. When Scheide bought it at an auction in Nov. 1991, no copy had been on the market for 200 years.

Scheide acquired the remaining Bible last year. The Mentelin Bible, printed by Johann Mentelin by 1460, was the first book printed in Strasbourg. Twenty-eight copies survive, all on paper. Until Scheide's purchase in 2001, no copy had been sold for more than 75 years.

The Scheide Library is the only collection in the United States, and one of only six in the world, to own all four of these Bibles. The other owners are public libraries in Europe.

Scheide, a member of Princeton's class of 1936, was a long-time member of the national NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the Princeton Joint Commission on Civil Rights. In 1994, Princeton awarded him an honorary doctorate in humanities, noting his work in preserving rare books and manuscripts; his nurturing of libraries, musical organizations and scholarly societies; and his work on behalf of social justice.

In 1946, Scheide, a noted scholar of Bach, founded the Bach Aria Group as a way to bring more of Bach's works to the public. Until retiring in 1980, he personally managed the group, a chamber ensemble with both vocalists and instrumentalists that made numerous recordings and performed regularly on radio and on tour.

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