A quandary of biblical proportions

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Forty years ago I was at an estate auction in Moorhead, Minnesota, buying an antique oak dresser when I spotted a large, leather-bound Bible for sale.

This was no ordinary Bible. The old, sculpted leather cover is embossed with gold trim, and the book weighs close to 10 pounds. Perhaps it was divine intervention, but I couldn’t turn away from that Bible and felt compelled to purchase it. I don’t remember how much I paid for it, but it was probably just a few dollars.

I couldn’t shake the idea that this family was giving up an heirloom to some stranger. Were there no family members left who wanted it? This Holy Bible needed a good home, so I toted the heavy book to my car, not sure what I’d ever do with it. The Bible is simply too big to be toted anywhere. It is well-worn, though, so I’d like to think it was used regularly by its original owners, perhaps for family Bible readings in bygone years. The pages are yellowed and tattered, the book binding loosened, the fastening hardware mostly gone.

Since I have my own, more user-friendly Bible for daily use, I tucked this old gem in a box, and there it sat, in various closets through the years, until I pulled it out recently during my “Swedish death cleaning” stint.

What to do with this voluminous Bible that dates to 1882 or even earlier? I put it in my car trunk with some other items, thinking I’d donate it to the Soroptimist Thrift Haus where I volunteer my time. But I somehow can’t part with it, not knowing what its fate would be. I used to process books for the thrift store, and it would regularly break my heart to see not only old Bibles but also children’s books with handwritten, endearing messages from loved ones inside the front cover so easily discarded.

I didn’t want this Bible to be tossed into a recycling bin, or cut to pieces (the first 93 pages include ornate lithographic illustrations that certainly could be clipped out and framed). And I don’t want to sell it for personal gain; that seems wrong.

So, I’ve decided to put what little information I have about this Bible out there and pray for some connection. If that doesn’t work I intend to contact the Clay County Historical Society in Moorhead and see if it might want the Bible for a museum display.

Here’s what I know: the Bible was given to Patrick H. Lamb and Miss Katie Herrick for their wedding on Feb. 20, 1882, in Moorhead, Minnesota. A marriage certificate in the back of the Bible is signed by Father L. Spitzlberger, a Catholic priest from Moorhead at that time.

The front cover is monogrammed, stating P.H. and K. Lamb as the original owners of this Catholic Bible. It was published in New York by D & J Sadlier & Co., a publisher that marketed its editions specifically toward Irish, French and German Catholic working-class immigrants, according to information I found on eBay. And there’s an “approbation page” that states this edition of the “Catholic Family Bible” was examined and approved by John Hughes, Archbishop of New York.

It’s time to find a home for this old Bible. Perhaps the same divine intervention that brought it into my hands so many years ago will lead it to the place of honor it deserves.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.

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