Alan helps cathedral stage city Bible class

Alan Saxby has a 1597 bible on display at Sheffield Cathedral

Alan Saxby has a 1597 bible on display at Sheffield Cathedral

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A RARE Bible from the reign of Queen Elizabeth I has been put on display at Sheffield Cathedral - after it was very nearly thrown on a bonfire.

Alan Saxby, aged 74, saved the Geneva Bible from destruction after he moved to Barnsley in the mid 1960s.

“The house next door to where I lived had belonged to one of the oldest residents in the town who had recently died in hospital,” he said.

“She had no children but had a nephew who came to clear the house. He said his aunt had a lot of books which he had no time to sort out and which he was planning to burn.

“So I went to have a look - there was a real goldmine of stuff in there. I remember there was a Spanish-English dictionary from the 18th century, and two Geneva Bibles, one from 1597, the other from 1604.”

The Geneva Bible was translated into English in the mid 16th century by Protestants and used by William Shakespeare, Oliver Cromwell and John Milton.

It was also the first Bible to be mass produced on printing presses and made available directly to the general public - it is also known as a Breeches Bible.

“I decided to keep the older one - I have no idea how much it is worth but obviously it is an antique,” Alan said.

“It also has annotations in some of the margins and as it was translated in Geneva for puritans, it is not especially favourable to kings!”

Alan’s Bible predates the famous King James’ translation of 1611 - which is the main subject of the cathedral exhibition celebrating its 400th anniversary.

The display, which runs until the end of June, is part of a series of events organised by Sheffield University’s department of biblical studies.

Other activities include free open lectures from the former Poet Laureate Andrew Motion, MP Frank Field, and other prominent cultural commentators.

The exhibition entitled Telling Tales of King James’ Bible examines the origins, use and abuse of the English Bible from the 1300s to the present day.

It explores the influence the text has had over world events, the great literary works it has inspired, and whether the Bible is relevant today.

The public are invited to take part by registering their own King James’ Bible treasures.

Other artefacts on display include a 1617 copy of the King James’ Bible from Sheffield Parish collections and a Sheffield Flood Bible, one of many presented to survivors of the Great Sheffield Flood in 1864.

Project co-ordinator Iona Hine said: “We’ve put a lot of energy into this project. It’s been a very rewarding partnership and it’s really pleasing to be able to offer so many activities for local people.

“I hope Sheffielders greet the exhibition and events with the same enthusiasm we’ve seen in Birmingham, Lichfield and other cathedral cities.”

Schools and colleges are also invited to use the exhibition, which offers educational resources and flexible materials for interactive learning, supporting religious education, English and history curricula.

Consultants from Museums Sheffield have been involved in the project to ensure the relevance and significance of the materials for both public and schools.