The Massachusetts Bible Society (MBS) Collection
In 1979-1980, the Library received the collection of the Massachusetts Bible Society, approximately 4500 items covering 1500 languages into which the Bible or parts have been translated. These combined collections contain nearly 75% of the early Bible editions cited in The Book of a Thousand Tongues. Cataloging was funded by a grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundation, is less than 50% complete, and is currently on hold.
History of the Massachusetts Bible Society Collection
On July 6th 1809 a meeting, led by William Phillips, was held in Boston at the Academy Room of the State House to propose the establishment of a Bible society in Massachusetts which would be “for the distribution of Bibles and Testaments.” Bibles in Boston had been distributed by the Philadelphia Bible Society, but by 1809, only a year after its founding, they felt that the need for Bibles in the New England area had increased enough to create its own society. Thus at the 1809 meeting the Massachusetts Bible Society was officially formed and its objectives were announced in a circular published the same year.
Between 1929 and 1930 a library was formed by the society to provide research materials for the missionary translators and also to archive Bibles that had been translated and published by other missionary and Bible societies. Harold P. Landers was the first and only librarian to document the collections for the Society’s annual reports. Over time he developed a unique classification scheme for the Bibles that was organized by language. He also kept a card catalog detailing, not only the items in the collections, but an index of translators who worked on the Bibles. A special bookplate was made so that the details of the Bible such as its language group, its translators, and the year of acquisition could be recorded. Landers retired from his work with the Massachusetts Bible Society in 1962, after many years of dedicated service to the society and its library.