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Rare Collections Spotlight

April, 2017 
Pennsylvania’s Assembly Bible
Undoubtedly, the book in the Rare Collections of the State Library that gets the most consistent exposure and regular use is Pennsylvania’s Assembly Bible.  Although it is a large folio edition of the King James Bible, printed by the King’s printer John Baskett at Oxford in 1739, little else distinguishes the work.  In 1753 the Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly Isaac Norris and Representative Benjamin Franklin of Philadelphia ordered this bible along with other books and maps “for the use of the House.”  The bible sat on a lectern in the Assembly hall of the State House, and all meetings of the Assembly opened and closed with readings from it.  Members also took the oath of office or made their solemn affirmations upon its covers.  The Assembly Bible still possesses its original binding of dark red morocco leather.  In 1767 the gilt letters, “Assembly of Pennsylvania,” were added to the cover by Philadelphia bookbinder Samuel Taylor.  For a time the practice of members’ swearing in on the Assembly Bible fell into abeyance.  But, in honor of the 300th anniversary of the formation of the Commonwealth on July 21, 1981, the practice was resumed.       
To find out more about Pennsylvania’s Assembly Bible, or to see it, contact Rare Books Librarian Iren Snavely for an appointment.  Telephone: (717) 783-5982 or email: