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Rare Bible replica in Walsh

A replicate of the oldest known copy of the Bible is currently on display in the Walsh Library.

The "Codex Vaticanus" was written in the fourth century and is considered to be the one of the oldest known copies of the Bible. It is written in Greek and was one of the main texts used to translate the Bible to modern English.

The Bible will be on display throughout November before it moves to the library in the theological seminary.

No other universities in the area have a replication of "Codex Vaticanus."
"Yale has it and Harvard has it, but it's not available in that many academic libraries," Rev. Chris Ciccarino said.

Seton Hall possesses a copy because Pope John Paul II asked for a renewal of biblical studies for the new millennium. He commissioned 450 replicates of "Codex Vaticanus."

The Vatican Library has 150 of those copies for use, meaning that only 300 copies are available for the public, making it a unique addition to Seton Hall's library.

"The ‘Codex Vaticanus' represents what is quite likely one of the earliest complete biblical manuscripts in existence," Ciccarino, who teaches scripture and biblical languages at the Immaculate Conception Seminary, said.

The university purchased the, Bible for $6,895. It is 30 cm tall, with gold impressions on the cover and spine. It is a total 1,536 pages printed on vellum, a fine quality, extra thin parchment made of sheep skin.

When the Bible was replicated, no detail was overlooked. Notes written in the margins by monks centuries ago, and smallest page deteriorations were all included.

The text is written in scripto continua, meaning continuous writing. There is no space between individual words or paragraphs, and no form of punctuation. All the words are also written in capital letters.

The Bible was shipped to the university from Rome in a wooden crate weighing 16 kilograms. Inside the crate, the Bible was inside a thick clear plastic case for additional protection.

The display in the Walsh Library is open to The Book of John, Chapter 1, Verse 1. Place cards describing the reproduction are placed around the Bible, written by Ciccarino.

Ciccarino said he believes that it was a good investment for the university.

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"This provides a scholar the opportunity to meet the manuscript, and to experience first hand what an ancient bible looked like," Ciccarino said.

The purchase of the Bible was made possible through conversations between former Dean of Library Systems Howard McGinn and Ciccarino.

When McGinn retired, the current Dean of Library Technology, Chrysanthy Grieco continued the effort with the help of Rev. Larry Porter, director of the seminary's library.

At the end of November the Bible will be moved to the seminary's rare book room.

Other rare books available include other reproductions of early Bibles, including a six-volume set of the first polyglot Bible written in Greek, Hebrew and Latin.

The collection includes both ancient and reproduced books.

"From the 2nd century on we have many portions of the Bible, either individual books or an individual gospel, we have scraps of things, but a whole Bible is very rare," Ciccarino said.

Frank Taylor can be reached at


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