Very old Bibles

old Bibles


At Shippensburg Historical Society, we have so many interesting historical items.  A lot of our collection is paper, which of course deteriorates from being exposed to sunlight. Because of that, years ago we had special light filtering panels added to the inside of our widows to keep some of the damaging rays of the sun out.

And deep in the center of the house, where no sun shines in from any window, is a very special closet.  That closet is our old Bible repository.  These are some of our oldest books, and are also those that are the best cared for.  When any of us handle any book older than 50 or so years, we wear white cotton gloves.  Even a small amount of skin oil can damage paper over time,  and the gloves are another way we help to preserve our collection.

These Bibles are the least handled books in our collection, since most of them are very fragile.  Many are from the 1800’s.  Many have beautifully decorated colorful pages.  All are leather-bound and many have gold lettering on the binding. Books were very expensive to make back thru time, and  the family Bible was the only book some families owned. Quite a few are written in German, since many people from this area are of German ancestry. And most have paper so fragile now that even bending a sheet of the paper could cause it to break.

Some of these Bibles have the most accurate information available about the families who owned them.  In some cases, birth, marriage, and death records were not always well-kept by doctors and government agencies as they are  more recently.  And there were some people many years ago who couldn’t read and write.  But families found some way to record their life events in their most important place, and in some cases the family Bible was the only place it was recorded.

So these beautiful old books sit in their space, protected in several ways.  And once in a while, someone comes in and says they know we have their family Bible and they would like to look at it.  That book is brought downstairs to them and they put the gloves on and can look back thru the history of their family.  It’s such a moving experience when one of us gets to share that with a visitor.

If you live here or are coming to Shippensburg, you should visit us at Shippensburg Historical Society.  Whether you’re looking for something in particular, like genealogy information, or just want to cruise thru local history  held in one of the town’s most historical buildings, you’ll enjoy your tour of our beautiful old limestone house.  We are open to the public Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 1-4.


9 responses to “Very old Bibles

  1. Great post! Fascinating stuff – I love reading about things like this. I think that’s why I love going to Mystic Seaport so much. Preserving history is so important.

  2. Question…. Has anyone taken the time to record the information that is in those bibles in an updated form before they are too fragile to open?

    • Yes, the information in each Bible is copied and saved without needing to open the book again. Some one went thru the old ones a few years ago, and they copy the pages of info of any new ones we get, which doesn’t happen very often any more.

  3. Love the picture, hate the thought of them deteriorating so badly though. Can nothing more be done to preserve them? Thanks for sharing this bit of history today.

    • Leaving them in the dark and not handling them is the most we can do Sam. You’re welcome. When I take people on tours of the house, I love to tell the story of the old Bibles. And people are fascinated, even if they know their Bible isn’t in there. It always brings on interesting conversations.

  4. Wow, I just love old books and these old Bibles are so very special. I am glad you have them.

    • They sure are, and families give them to us knowing we will take care of them. Things like these don’t always mean much to younger people now, so some of the Bibles come to us for safe-keeping.

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