Some two centuries after it was printed, a rare miniature Bible dedicated to the first president of the United States has come to Jerusalem, where the National Library of Israel has made it freely accessible online for the first time.
According to experts, less than a dozen copies of the special edition of the Bible remain in public hands. The book, measuring about 51 by 35 millimeters (2 by 1.375 inches), includes both the Old and New Testaments written in a paraphrased form.
The full dedication reads, “To his Excellency G. Washington, President of the United States of America. Most hopeful George, into thy hands we give, The sum of that which makes us ever live. And tho’ the volume and the work be small, Yet it contains the sum of all in all.”
The paraphrased biblical text appearing in the edition was originally written by John Taylor, a well-known 16th- to 17th-century English poet. The book includes a number of crude early American woodcuts depicting biblical scenes and figures. It was printed in Rutland, Vermont, between 1813 and 1815.
“The term ‘thumb Bible’ refers to abbreviated Bibles like this, which were popular in early 19th-century America, where they were used to educate children,” said Dr. Aviad Stollman, head of collections at the National Library of Israel.
The George Washington Thumb Bible came to the National Library of Israel as part of the famed Valmadonna Trust Library, the finest private collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world, which was purchased jointly by the National Library and archaeology, books and Judaica collectors David and Jemima Jeselsohn through a private sale arranged by the Sotheby’s auction house.
The Valmadonna collection is currently being digitized and it will be showcased in the National Library of Israel’s landmark new building, which was designed by award-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron, and is currently under construction next to the Knesset in Jerusalem. It is scheduled to open in 2021.
The digitized George Washington Thumb Bible can be viewed here in its entirety.