Rare Books

Rare Books

Search the rare books collection in the library’s catalog.

The St. John’s University Libraries own one of the ten extant copies of the third edition of the first German Bible printed in America. In 1776, all but a few copies of the Saur Bible were destroyed when the British invaded Germantown and converted the freshly printed leaves into litter for their horses and paper for their cartridges; hence its name–Gunwad Bible. Christoph Saur’s daughter Catherine rescued a handful of copies which she had bound for members of the family.

Among the Rare Books the Libraries also count an Ethiopian Psalter. This Amharic manuscript on vellum is attached to wooden boards and housed in its own goat-hide carrying case. Our holdings of three incunabula, a Bible printed in Venice 1492 and two different editions of St. Augustine’s works (1486 and 1497), represent the earliest Western printed book production efforts.

Much of the collection (over 800 volumes) consists of transfers from the general circulating collection and donations from parish, seminary and private clerical libraries. As a result there are several 16th- and 17th-century editions of works of the Church Fathers and 18th- and 19th-century writings of missionaries.


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