by Audrey Kinch and Mary Robinson
Many unique and wonderful treasures are found among the Russell Library’s Bible collection. ‘The New Testament of our Lord and Redemptor Jesus Christ’ by Joao Ferreira de Almeida (1628-1691) is a Portuguese language Bible that was damaged during the Easter Rising of 1916. Printed in London in 1819 this Bible is part of the Hibernian Bible Society (HBS) collection. This collection of c. 2,500 Bibles was deposited by the Society to the Russell Library in 1986 and is represented in 593 languages. The sheaf catalogue of this unique collection lists the Bibles first by language, then chronologically. The New Testament of our Lord and Redemptor Jesus Christ is number 740 in the catalogue.
Some books of the Bible were first translated into the Portuguese language in the 13th century. Joao Ferreira de Almeida, a converted Protestant pastor, began translating the Bible when he was just 16. He was also an ardent religious writer mostly protesting against the Catholic Church with the Portuguese Inquisition publicly burning some of his writings and sentencing him to death for heresy. He studied Greek and Hebrew in order to perfect his Bible translations as his first publication of the New Testament (1681), was criticised due to the amount of errors. He spent ten years revising this and the new edition was published posthumously in 1693.
The Hibernian Bible Society (now the National Bible Society of Ireland) was established in 1806 to encourage wider circulation of the Bible throughout Ireland. The Society is now located on Dublin’s Dawson Street but was previously situated in the heart of Dublin City in Bible House on 10 Upper Sackville Street (now O’Connell Street). Bible House bore witness to many historic times including the Dublin Rebellion of 1916 and the Irish Civil War.
Ninety seven years after Almeida’s Bible was published, it was damaged by gunfire during the Rising. Although we do not know the circumstances, the damage, which resembles bullet holes is clearly visible on the top right foredge of the front cover, the textblock and on the backboard. The sheaf catalogue entry testifies to the damage from the rebellion. Despite the impairment the Bible remains mostly intact and is in overall good condition.
Disaster struck the Hibernian Bible Society in 1922 when Bible House was destroyed during the Irish Civil War. One of the greatest losses to the Society was the library, which was devastated during the conflict. Upon relocating to the premises on Dawson Street, the Society replenished the library to its former glory.
Maynooth University currently have two exhibitions on display to commemorate the Easter Rising of 1916. The Russell Library has Maynooth College and 1916 on view and Domhnall Ua Buachalla: an Exhibition is on display in the JPII library building. Visitors are welcome.
Watchtower online library, accessed 21/04/2016