March 11, 2002 Christopher de Hamel to Discuss the Library's Giant Bible of Mainz at Second Rare Book Forum on April 4

Press Contact: Craig D'Ooge (202) 707-9189
Public Contact: (202) 707-5221

Christopher de Hamel, Donnelley Fellow Librarian, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, England, will present a talk about the Library of Congress's copy of the Giant Bible of Mainz at the Library at 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 4, in the Mumford Room, sixth floor, James Madison Memorial Building, 101 Independence Ave., S. E. The second in a series of occasional programs titled the Library of Congress Rare Book Forums, the presentation is sponsored by the Rare Book and Special Collections Division and the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress. It is free and open to the public. No tickets are required but reservations are recommended. Please contact the Center for the Book: telephone (202) 707-5221; fax (202) 707-0269; or e-mail:

Christopher de Hamel's presentation celebrates the 50th anniversary of the gift by Lessing J. Rosenwald of the Giant Bible to the Library of Congress. It also commemorates the 550th anniversary of the date that a master scribe in Germany began work on this sumptuous two- volume illuminated manuscript, which was produced in 1452-53. Housed in the chapter library of Mainz until 1631, the volumes eventually found their way to the library of Dukes of Gotha in eastern Germany where they remained for several hundred years until the mid-20th century, when book dealer H. P. Kraus brought them to the United States, and Lessing J. Rosenwald purchased them. On April 4, 1952, Mr. Rosenwald officially donated the Giant Bible to the nation and the Library of Congress. It was one of many gifts he generously made to the Library between 1943 and 1959. Today the Giant Bible is on display in the Great Hall of the Thomas Jefferson Building, across from the Library's copy of the Gutenberg Bible.

In his talk, Mr. de Hamel will focus on the historical circumstances in which this famous Bible was created. De Hamel is an internationally known lecturer and expert on illuminated manuscripts. His most recent publication is The Book: A History of the Bible (Phaidon Press, 2001). His other books include A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (2nd ed., Phaidon Press, 1994) and Scribes and Illuminators (University of Toronto Press, 1992).

The Library of Congress Rare Book Forum is one of many cooperative projects cosponsored by the Rare Book Division and the Center for the Book. "Private Collectors and Special Collections Librarians" was the first Rare Book Forum held on April 4, 2001. Other joint projects include the Engelhard Lectures on the Book (1979-1991), a symposium and book, The Early Illustrated Book: Essays in Honor of Lessing J. Rosenwald (1982); a 1987 symposium on "Incunabula in American Libraries"; and two projects and publications, The Printer & the Pardoner, by Paul Needham (1986) and Federal Copyright Records 1790-1800 (1987).

The Center for the Book was established in 1977 to use the resources and prestige of the Library of Congress to stimulate public interest in books, reading, and libraries. For information about its program and publications and the activities of its affiliates and national reading promotion partners, see its Web site:


PR 02-031
ISSN 0731-3527