By Sharon Mager, BCM/D Correspondent
STEVENSON, Md.—The Maryland Bible Society partnered with Stevenson University to protect and archive 741 rare Bibles, religious writings, books, artifacts and artwork–a veritable treasure trove of goodies that includes a bounty of items found in a closet. The material dates as far back as the 1600’s.
Representatives of Stevenson University and The Maryland Bible Society hosted a special reception on June 18 at the college to officially announce the online collection. Stevenson is one of five institutions in Maryland that have put their archived collections online for the world to see and research.
Stevenson University Archivist and Historian Glen Johnston is jubilant to receive the collection and extolled the historical significance of the find.
Johnston shared about the genealogies carefully preserved and the secret stories the documents hold.
He held up an authentic Confederate New Testament and explained how the war veterans shared not only their genealogies and their battles, but many noted their next of kin with a plea to return their Bibles to their families.
It’s also important to note, Johnston said, that having authentic documents, such as the Confederate New Testaments, allow historians to evaluate reproductions.
There is an “Acts of the Apostles,” book in Japanese, Navaho, Cherokee and African Bibles. The Cherokee Bible has a Cherokee to English alphabet translation in the front that may one day be used as a “Rosetta Stone,” to translate the language.
Johnston held up a Bible he believes came out of the great Baltimore fire of 1904, charred on the inside, not on the outside, suggesting it was open when burned. “We knew the old Bible house had a front window and a Bible in it where a new passage was turned to each day. So whether that is the Bible or not, it is certainly iconic of what would have happened at that time and tells the story of that incredible fire and how the city, and the Bible house came back after the fire,” Johnston said.
The most valuable discovery to Johnston is what he believes to be Auguste de Montferrand’s personal scrapbook. Montferrand designed St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg, the fourth largest cathedral in the world.
David Moyer assumed the position as Maryland Bible Society Executive Director in 2010. The society was over 200 years old and Moyer became concerned about protecting the historical documents.
Moyer invited his friend Joseph McGraw, Jr., chairman of the humanities department at Stevenson University, to view the collection. McGraw, while studying the 1600’s King James Bible was astounded to discover the Bible was authentic. McGraw told Moyer that the college was looking for such a collection.
Cathy Johnson, Bible Society project manager, and others began sorting through various items for transfer to Stevenson and discovered a gold mine of documents tucked away in a closet, including what she thought was a “pauper’s” Bible, a type of picture Bible thought to be used by parish priests in the 1400‘s and 1500‘s to educate the illiterate. The “Bible” turned out to be one of Montferrand’s scrapbooks, containing precious engravings from the 1600’s from the Theatrum Biblicum.
David Moyer is excited about the historical significance of the material but he is most interested in the preservation of the material because they represent a historical link in continuing the spread of the Gospel.
“The mission of the Maryland Bible Society has always been the proclamation of God’s word,” Moyer said.
The newly discovered material is just another avenue God will use to draw people to His word, Moyer said, and no matter who is viewing it, in whatever format, God’s word has the power to transform lives. Moyer quoted Isaiah 55:11, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.”
The collection can be viewed on the Maryland Bible Society website, http://mbs.pastperfect-online.com. The Bible Society will also be displaying part of the collection at various church locations later this year. Visitors are also welcome to view the collection at Stevenson by appointment. Call (443) 334-2196 or email: email@example.com.