Rare Bible is gifted to Special Collections

March 27, 2014 8:45 AM

Erika Herran

Pennyroyal Caxton Bible

A Pennyroyal Caxton Bible was gifted to Tulane University. One of its ornate engraved illustrations depicts Jonah after his release from the belly of the whale.

One of only 50 deluxe copies of the rare and exquisite Pennyroyal Caxton Bible now resides in Special Collections at Tulane University.

Bruce Kovner of New York, founder of hedge fund firm Caxton Associates, facilitated the Bible’s production, and he and his wife Suzie gifted the Bible to Tulane. 

The surprise gift was made “in recognition of the academic studies of Tulane University, the aesthetic and scholarly standards of the Howard-Tilton Memorial Library, and in particular the Special Collections interest in fine printing,” according to a letter from Kovner Philanthropy.

The gift strengthens the certificate program in Documentary Literary Studies of the Department of English, in which student-interns get hands-on training in rare book and item archives, says Michael Kuczynski, associate professor and chair of English.

“In our digital age, we tend to think of books merely as a way of conveying information,” says Kuczynski. “But from the medieval period into the modern age there’s a long tradition of the book as an art form. The Caxton Bible is in that tradition.”

With Kovner’s support, master American printmaker Barry Moser designed and printed the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible in 1999. The deluxe two-volume edition of the King James Version of the Bible is bound in vellum, printed on handmade paper and adorned with intricate engraved illustrations. Deluxe copies sell for $30,000 on the official website.

“Moser’s artistic tribute to the Bible, if you think of the Old Testament as a historical document, takes us all the way back to the origins of our understanding of ourselves,” says Kuczynski. “We often become so immersed in the moment that we lose sight of the sweep of things, and that’s what working with rare books can bring us back in touch with.” 

The public may view the Pennyroyal Caxton Bible in room 202 of Jones Hall on the Tulane University uptown campus.

Erika Herran is a communications specialist in the Office of Development Communications.

Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118 504-865-5000 website@tulane.edu