Celebrating Diversity

Celebrating Diversity: Religious Texts and Images from the 13th to the 19th century

This exhibition is intended to reflect early attempts by Western scholars to encompass the study of non-Christian religions, albeit from a predominantly Western perspective. The works on display are part of the University of Wales Trinity Saint David collection of Rare Books and Manuscripts housed in the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives at Lampeter. Opened in October 2008 by the First Minister for Wales, the Roderic Bowen Library and Archives houses some of our nation’s most important rare books and manuscripts.

The current exhibition comprises both manuscript and printed material. Among the manuscripts on display is a late fifteenth century Hebrew scroll of the Book of Esther, an illuminated Latin Bible written in Normandy and completed in 1279, an eighteenth century manuscript of the Koran, and an eighteenth century Buddhist text in Pali inscribed on palm leaves.

Among the printed exhibits is an early eighteenth century encyclopaedia of world religions ( the subject of increasing scholarly attention and from which this exhibition takes its inspiration), an early English translation of the Koran, early nineteenth century studies of Buddhism and Hinduism, and examples of early printed editions of the Hebrew and Christian scriptures published by renaissance scholars during the sixteenth century.

Many of these volumes are of particular interest because of their provenance. Exhibits include works formerly in the possession of Thomas Cranmer (1489-1556)  Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, Edward VI and, for a short time, Mary I; John Lock (1632-1704),  the philosopher and physician widely regarded as one of the most influential of Enlightenment thinkers; and the unfortunate King Charles I (1600-1649) of England, Scotland and Ireland who was executed in 1649.

The image shown here appears in a Book of Hours, the Office or Hours of the Blessed Virgin Mary, written in France for use in the diocese of Rouen in the late fifteenth century, perhaps for the woman who is represented in the picture of the Virgin and child. The manuscript was in the possession of Charles Boddam, of Trinity College, Cambridge in 1782 and was subsequently acquired by Thomas Phillips who presented to St David’s College Lampeter in 1846.