Bexley Seabury’s Gift

Bexley Seabury’s donation includes this book of oral history in Arabic, with interlinear explanations in Persian (ca. 1680).

As part of the recent consolidation of Bexley Seabury in Chicago, the seminary has donated the Bexley Hall Rare Book Collection to the Newberry Library.

“As one of Chicago’s richest centers for scholarship and culture, the Newberry is the ideal home for the Bexley Hall Collection,” said the Rev. Roger A. Ferlo, president of Bexley Seabury. “We are delighted to enhance the already impressive archive on the history of religions at the Newberry Library, and share our resources with the community.”

The Bexley Hall Collection consists of more than 325 titles and 120 bound volumes containing approximately 1,200 19th-century pamphlets.

“Bexley Seabury has stewarded this remarkable rare-book collection with great care and expertise,” said David Spadafora, president of the Newberry Library. “We look forward to building on their excellent work and welcoming the collection’s current users into our community of learning and scholarship.”

Among the books in the Bexley Hall Collection are early Bibles and Books of Common Prayer; early printings of works by Erasmus; and works of theology, philosophy, and travel. The collection includes more than two dozen 16th-century imprints and books from such presses as Elzevir, Froben, and Plantin. Titles in the Bexley Hall Collection will be available as they are cataloged by the Newberry’s staff.

The history of religions has long been a strength of the Newberry. Rare early Bibles and illuminated Books of Hours were among the works acquired with the Henry Probasco Collection in 1889, and the John M. Wing Foundation on the History of Printing includes many theological titles. In the last decades, a number of institutions have transferred their libraries to the Newberry, including Catholic Theological Union, Concordia University Chicago, Dominican Friars of the Province of Saint Albert the Great, McCormick Theological Seminary, and Mundelein College.

The gift of the Bexley Hall Collection coincides with “Religious Change, 1450-1700,” a major Newberry project. With funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Newberry is modeling an institutionally integrative approach to produce an exhibition and accompanying digital resources and programming for the fall of 2017.

Staff from across the institution, and external scholar-advisers, have drawn on materials from all parts of the collection to tell the story of how new religious ideas, disseminated through print, challenged traditional authorities and thrust the medieval world into the modern age. The Bexley Hall Collection will contribute important works to the study of this topic, as well as deepen the Newberry collection of early 19th-century American imprints from small towns where presses were often set up to print sermons and religious tracts.

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