In the auspicious year of 1543, a book in German, Evangelien vnd Epistlen des Neϋwen Testaments (The Gospels and Letters of the New Testament; qBS239 1543 SCDIRB) was printed in the ancient Alsatian town of Colmar. Compiled by one Ambrosius Kempff, the work contains almost all of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament arranged in the order of the days of the Church calendar. As in a typical Roman Catholic lectionary, each selection was to be read on a certain day of the year. While the Dibner Library is primarily known for its history of science collections, it also contains several Bibles and other religious works, and we were pleased to be given this example on several accounts.
It is indeed a rare volume, with no other recorded copies in the United States and only a handful in European collections. Evangelien vnd Epistlen des Neϋwen Testaments appears in none of the standard reference works. It does get a mention in John M. Frymire’s The Primacy of the Postils (2010) which states it is written “Catholic” in the tradition of Erasmian humanism.
|The Bewitched Groom|
This donation contained a pleasant surprise: it has a 19th-century armorial bookplate although without an accompanying name. However, thanks to online resources, notably the Ex Libris Chronicle of the American Society of Bookplate Collectors (formed in Washington, D.C. in 1922), the previous owner could be quickly identified by the motto and coat-of-arms. Evangelien vnd Epistlen des Neϋwen Testaments once belonged to a great bibliophile, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). He was the sixth son (of fifteen children) of King George III. His vast library of some 50,000 volumes was housed in Kensington Palace, where some members of the Royal family still live. The Duke’s librarian happened to also be his surgeon, Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, who produced catalogues of the collection as well as books on other topics. Pettigrew’s Medical Portrait Gallery (London, [1838?-1840]; R134 .P52 1838 SCDIRB) is on the Dibner shelves. Alas, the Duke had amassed huge debts (in no small part because of his collecting habits) so soon after his death the books and manuscripts were sold at auction and the library’s contents scattered. This volume is the only one in the Smithsonian Libraries identified with this provenance.
|The manuscript inscription and armorial bookplate|
The donor of the Evangelien vnd Epistlen is Mr. Theron Patrick, Commander United States Coast Guard (Retired) who recently visited the Dibner Library and the Book Conservation Laboratory of the Smithsonian Libraries. We very much appreciate his interest in our collections and we thank him for donating such a fascinating volume.