College Librarian Jamie Fishwick-Ford, on today's donations

Until this morning we had planned to let the 500th anniversary of Luther nailing his 95 Theses to the door of All Saint’s Church at Wittenberg slip by without much fanfare in the library – Lady Margaret Hall is sadly lacking in antiquarian editions of Luther’s works, despite our expanding collection of modern works relating to Luther and to Reformation history in general.

However, this morning we were stunned to be given two fascinating antiquarian books on the Reformation by an alumna visiting the library. The first is A commentarie of Master Doctor Martin Luther upon the Epistle of S. Paul to the Galathians (London: George Miller, 1635). This edition of Luther’s commentaries, first published in 1575, is, the titlepage informs us, “now out of Latine faithfully translated into English for the unlearned”: translation into the vernacular to allow more people to study key texts being a key drive in the Reformation.

Luther's commentary on St Paul

In making translations of the Bible, from Luther to Tyndale to the King James Authorized Version, a key question is deciding which versions of the Old and New Testaments should be seen as useful sources. Frequently a number of different language texts were compared to produce the final translations. For the Old Testament this included the Hebrew and Aramaic Masoretic text, the Latin Vulgate, and the Greek Septuagint. James Ussher’s De Graeca Septuaginta (London: John Crook, 1655) is a scholarly analysis of these sources, and this is the first edition of that work. Choosing which source to use was a key issue for Bishop Ussher, who is perhaps most famous today for his biblical chronology, which dated the creation of the world to the 22nd (or 23rd) October 4004 BC. He did this using the dates of the patriarchs from Genesis 5 and 11, using the data from the Masoretic text: if he had used the Septuagint the creation would have instead been dated at around 5000 to 5500 BC.

These two books were donated to Lady Margaret Hall Library by Rose Moore, née Rosemary Elizabeth Forster. She matriculated here as a student in 1962, reading Psychology, Philosophy, and Physiology, and also has a keen interest in horticulture – we were delighted to show her our botanical books, which featured in a previous Library Object. Our rare books collection is almost entirely gifts, from Fellows, alumni, and friends of the college, and it is great to see it continue to grow thanks to kind donations such as these.