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Early English Theology Rare Book Collection

Date: June 20, 2024

As of April, Bishop Payne Library’s Rare Book Room is the home of a remarkable special collection of approximately 5,500 rare books known as the Early English Theology collection. These are being preserved, curated, and made available for scholarly use at BPL on behalf of The General Theological Seminary.

The books span the years of 1522-1700, and are arranged chronologically, including boxes of pamphlets for most of the years. This period includes what is known as the Golden Period in English literature, and particularly the Golden period in Anglican literature. Examples are first editions of books by Lancelot Andrewes, John Donne, George Herbert, and John Milton.

Even a quick scan of the collection reveals the extensive care and preservation that has been given to the binding of these books over the last 200 years. While many of the original bindings have been preserved, the books that were rebound were done according to the highest standards of the bookbinding craft. The collection is also a demonstration of the intimacy of paper that was made from rags.

This is certainly one of the finest collections of its kind in the United States. The opportunities for these books to supplement a variety of classes at Virginia Theological Seminary are endless. An example is the exhibit currently on display in the rare book reading room of books spanning the Reformation period, which were selected by Vincent Williams for a class in the Spring semester.

David Buresh, MLIS
Cataloger and Rare Book Curator
Bishop Payne Library

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