Charles Payette’s Bible collection — numbering more than 3,000 books, wood blocks and other rare artifacts — is considered one of the world’s finest and rarest in private hands. In fact, some books in his collection are the only known ones in existence. Over a 12-part series in fall 2014, the Forsyth County resident offered Forsyth County News readers a closer look at some of the Bibles. Those articles by Adlen Robinson can be found online at forsythnews.com.
CUMMING — The Forsyth County Ministerial Association recently held a viewing of some of the most significant Bibles of the Reformation in the collection of local resident Charles Payette.
Nearly 500 years after Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses, those in attendance were able to see a 1534 woodcut printing block from the first Luther Bible, as well as the rare first printing from the Jena edition of Luther’s works in its original binding.
Also available to view were several works connected to William Tyndale, the father of the Bible in English.
Of note was an extremely rare example of the 1523 Latin New Testament, revised and edited by Erasmus of Rotterdam. It was found in the home of the family that Tyndale sought refuge with while performing his translation of Bible into English.
This definitive Latin version from the Renaissance had a profound influence upon Tyndale and the later translators of the Geneva and King James versions of the Bible.
Included with the works of Tyndale was a 1537 edition of the “Matthew’s Bible.”
The only true authorized Bible in history, Henry VIII was tricked into authorizing the printing of it, which relied heavily on the work of Tyndale a year after his death in 1536.
This particular folio copy includes 117 woodcuts, many of which are unique to the edition.
Other works of interest were a 1541 “Great Bible” from England’s Cardiff Castle duly named for its great size and cost to produce.
The hand-carved woodcut title page alone took over a year to produce and was so expensive that after Henry VIII had Thomas Cromwell executed they left his depiction on the page and only removed his crest.
The 1560-61 “Printer’s Issue” of the Geneva Bible containing the handwritten notes of Theodore Beza and John Calvin was also on display.
This proof copy is the only one of its kind and came from the personal library of Beza.
Readers of last year’s Payette Bible Series in the Forsyth County News will remember that it was for the right to read the Geneva Bible that the Puritans first traveled across the Atlantic in 1620, after the publication of the King James Version in 1611.
Payette also displayed his copy of the King James “He” Bible that once belonged to the Biblical scholar Francis Fry.
This well-documented copy meets all the indicators of a first edition and is 100 percent complete, making it of an extremely rare state and quality.
In all, 18 items from Payette’s collection were available for viewing.
Members of the association were grateful for the opportunity to get close to the Bibles and look forward to the day when Cumming has a permanent place to display the works.
The Rev. J. Erik Allen is pastor of Christ the King Lutheran Church.