Israel Library puts George Washington Thumb Bible online

A rare miniature Washington ‘thumb bible’, one of less than a dozen existing copies, is now accessible to the public. 

By: World Israel News Staff

A rare miniature bible with a dedication to President George Washington was recently digitized and displayed online by the National Library of Israel.

Some two centuries after it was published, a rare miniature bible dedicated to “His Excellency G. Washington” arrived in Jerusalem, where the National Library of Israel has made it freely accessible online for the first time.

According to experts, fewer than a dozen copies of this edition remain in public hands.

The book, measuring about 51mm by 35mm (2″ x 1 3/8″), includes both the Old and New Testaments written in a paraphrased form.

“The term ‘thumb bible’ refers to abbreviated bibles, which were popular in early-19thcentury America, where they were used to educate children,” said Dr. Aviad Stollman, head of Collections at the National Library of Israel.

The paraphrased biblical text appearing in this edition was originally written by John Taylor, a well-known 16th-17th century English poet. The book includes a number of early American woodcuts depicting biblical scenes and figures. It was printed in Rutland, Vermont, some time between 1813 and 1815.

The full dedication reads: “To his Excellency G. Washington, President of the United States of America. Most hopeful George, into thy hands we give, The sum of that which makes us ever live. And tho’ the volume and the work be small, Yet it contains the sum of all in all.”

The George Washington Thumb Bible came to the National Library of Israel as part of the famed Valmadonna Trust Library, the finest private collection of Hebrew books and manuscripts in the world, which was purchased jointly by NLI and collectors Dr. David and Jemima Jeselsohn through a private sale arranged by Sotheby’s.

The Valmadonna collection is currently being digitized and will be showcased at the National Library of Israel’s landmark new building, currently under construction in Jerusalem.