Did You Know?

By Debra Conley


             The American Bible Society originated in 1816. Its first president was Elias Boudinot, a former President of the Continental Congress. Its second president was our first Chief Justice, John Jay. The Society provided pocket Bibles to the soldiers (on both sides) of the Civil War. The Society is still very active and still provides Bibles to all branches of the military.

During WWI, Bibles were given to all soldiers with inscriptions written by General John J. Pershing and President Theodore Roosevelt. WWII Bibles were inscribed by FDR. President Ronald Reagan declared 1983 the year of the Bible, though Bibles were no longer issued to soldiers but were offered to them. In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed Congressional Joint Resolution 164 declaring 1990 the International Year of Bible Reading.

In 1643, during England’s Civil War, Oliver Cromwell gave out The Soldier’s Pocket Bible. During a period of moral decline in 2011, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center created a change in policy, written by Chief of Staff C.W. Callahan: “No religious items (i.e. Bibles, reading material, and/or artifacts) are allowed to be given away or used during a visit,” the policy stated. Iowa Republican Steve King demanded that the Obama administration rescind such policy and it did.

The Gideons, founded in 1899, quickly began placing free Bibles in hotels the following year. They currently distribute in over 200 countries. Recently, the Freedom From Religion wrote to 15 hotel chains requesting them to refuse these Bibles. At least two major chains, Marriott and Wyndham Hotel Group, have obliged. Hotels operated by Arizona State University  and Northern Illinois University have reportedly banned Bibles from their facilities.

Johann Gutenberg is most famous for producing the 1286 page Bible named after him. His other fame came from the invention of moveable type.

Between 1450 and 1455, the Gutenberg Bible was completed. Early documentation states that a total of 200 copies were scheduled to be printed on rag cotton linen paper, and 30 copies on vellum animal skin. It is not known exactly how many copies were actually printed.

As of 2009, 49 Gutenberg Bibles are known to exist, but of these only 21 are complete The last Gutenberg Bible, a complete one, brought $2.2 million in 1978 at New York’s Christie’s Auction.
There are eleven copies of the Gutenberg Bible in the United States.  One, in the possession of the Library of Congress, is complete and printed on vellum, according to the LOC site. Of the thirty-five vellum copies, only three exist as complete copies. The Library’s copy is one of those three. The others are at the Bibliothèque Nationale (Paris) and the British Library (London).

Some Terms: Vellum is a type of treated calf skin. A Codex Bible is one bound at only one edge. An Illuminated Bible or manuscript is a manuscript in which the text is supplemented with such decoration as initials, borders (marginalia) and miniature illustrations. Some illustrated Bibles are only colorful pictures which tell the Bible story and were made for individuals who lacked the skill to read the manuscript. From the Latin words manus (hand) and scriptus, from scribere (to write).


Do you want to read the Bible through this year? Look for schedules on Aletheia’s web pages that will help you keep that goal.