A collection of rare pre-King James Bibles now resides at the UT, Knoxville Libraries. The rare Bibles once belonged to a noted Shakespeare scholar.
A little over a year ago, the UT Libraries was fortunate to acquire a collection of more than 300 early printed Bibles and other rare books from the collection of the late Naseeb Shaheen, professor of English at the University of Memphis for forty years. Shaheen was an internationally known authority on biblical allusions in Shakespeare’s plays. He assembled his collection of early printed Bibles to assure that he was working from the exact texts available to the Bard.
The centerpiece of the Shaheen Antiquarian Bible Collection is a group of about 100 English Bibles dating from the Protestant Reformation of the 16th century when the Christian scriptures were first translated into the vernacular languages of Europe. These early printed Bibles, along with psalters, prayer books and homilies; Greek and Latin Bibles; and early editions of literary works dating from the 16th and 17th centuries, form the core of the collection used by Shaheen in his studies of the Bible in literature.
Shaheen’s collection of pre-King James Bibles was one of the largest in the world. The Shaheen Antiquarian Bible Collection includes more than 60 examples of the Geneva Bible, the Scripture most often referenced in Shakespeare, as well as early printings of the so-called Great Bible, Bishops’ Bible, Matthew’s Bible, the Douay-Rheims Version, and the King James Bible.
These extraordinary artifacts are now available in UT’s Special Collections for reference by scholars of Shakespeare, the Bible, and Renaissance literature.