Southwestern libraries offer rare treasures for research
“A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library,” historian Shelby Foote once said, referring to the importance of books and libraries to scholarly research and higher education. Fittingly, then, at the heart of Southwestern Seminary lie Roberts Library and the Bowld Music Library, both home to valuable collections of unique historical treasures from around the world at the service of students, faculty and other researchers.
Roberts Library holds the J.T. and Zelma Luther Archives and Special Collections, which together contain more than 500,000 items. The Special Collections boasts of resources that range from unique missionary collections to exceedingly rare books that date back to the 16th century.
The Bowld Music Library also offers prestigious collections such as the Eugene Maston Collection and the Stebbins Collection. The Maston Collection contains approximately 2,245 titles that provide a wide range of resources in hymnology and music history. This collection includes the 1620 psalter publication of Claude de Gaudimel, making Southwestern the only institution in the United States to hold a copy of this remarkably rare volume. The Stebbins Collection holds more than 1,100 items, covering materials related to American hymnody from the 18th to the 20th centuries with a special focus on Gospel hymnody from the revivalistic period of the 19th century.
The following are just several of the remarkable items stored in the Roberts Library Special Collections.
- Souldiers Pocket Bible (1643) – A rare booklet that contains about 150 verse quotations from the Geneva Bible related to war. Fewer than 10 copies of this volume exist around the world. The booklets were compiled with the intention of boosting military morale and were passed out to the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell’s Commonwealth army during the first English Civil War (1642-1651).
- Document signed by Martin Luther and Philip Melanchton (1543) – This document exhibits writing by Luther on one side and that of Melanchton on the other. A truly rare gem, this item is significant because it contains the writings of two important figures of the Reformation on a single document. Luther’s writing on one side examines 1 Corinthians 15, while Melanchton writes about Isaiah 59 on the other.
- King James Version Bible (1613) and leaves from the 1611 edition –The first edition of the King James Version was printed in 1611. Its translation was based primarily on the Bishop’s Bible and other preceding English versions, such as the Tyndale Bible, in addition to original Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. The KJV became the favorite Bible translation for English-speaking peoples for more than 300 years without a serious rival, earning the epithet, “The greatest monument of English prose.”
- Foxe’s Book of Martyrs (1610) – A two-volume set, its original title is “Actes and monuments of matters most speciall and memorable happening in the Church: with an universall historie of the same.” This book became one of the most significant pieces of Protestant literature (after the Bible) in the 17th century. The copy in Roberts Library has 150 in-text woodblock prints depicting various scenes of martyrdom.
- Complutensian Polyglot Bible (1514) – Created under the direction of Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros (1436-1517), the Complutensian Polyglot Bible was the first printed polyglot of the entire Bible. Cisneros, a cardinal and religious reformer, was also a Grand Inquisitor, a promoter of the Crusades in North Africa, and twice regent of Spain. He also founded the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain. This polyglot Bible contains five translations of the Old Testament including Hebrew, Latin Vulgate, Greek Septuagint, Aramaic Targum Onkelos, and its own Latin translation.
These items may be viewed at almost any time by simply asking for access at the front desk. Jill Botticelli, archivist at the Roberts Library, and Jason Runnels, assistant music librarian at the Bowld Library, can assist you in finding the items in which you are interested.