The first Bible translations into Welsh have existed since at least the 15th century. The Welsh Bible presented in Elbląg Digital Library originates from 1689. It was published by London printer Thomas Newcomb. The Bible catches the eye with its fancy and intricate cover, that is attributed to London bookbinder Robert Steel (1668–1710). As shown in the picture the binding is made of green leather and ornamented with golden pressings. Gilded are also the page edges what makes a book even more luxurious, although gilding was applied not only for decoration purposes but has also its practical dimension as it preserved the edges. The endpaper is made of marble paper (more information of the binding of Queen Marys’ Bible available on the blog Biblos run by the restoration team of Elbląg Library http://pracownia-konserwacji.blogspot.com/2013/09/biblia-krolowej-marii.html).
The first owner of this book rarity was queen Mary (1662-1894), the wife of Wilhelm the III. of England. Afterward the Bible entered into possession of Szczecin bibliophile Jacob (Jacque) Perard (1713-1768), who finally gave it to the library of Elbląg Academic Gymnasium to increase its Bible collection. It’s interesting to mention that the owner of the Welsh Bible was a member of French minority in Szczecin. Born 1713 in Paris as a son of the merchant and banker Jacque Perard and his wife Marthee Couliette, he was one of many Huguenots who found asylum in the Kingdom of Prussia under Frederic William the I. Jacob Perard became a parson of the French parish in Szczecin. He was an erudite, member of more than ten learned societies, translator from German as well as English, editor of an literary-cultural periodical “Nouvelle Bibliotheque Germanique” and an owner of an imposing book collection, consisting of about 10000 books, which made it unique in his époque. Perard signed his books with a wood cut crest book plate. The Elbląg Queen Marys’ Bible is also marked with such a book plate.
Perards’ family put down roots in Royal Prussia, worth mentioning is the fact that his ground daughter Sophie Auguste Tielebein (1771-1854) was an animator of cultural life in Szczecin and a hostess of an famous salon, visited by Chopin himself.
Why did Perard decide to choose just the Queen Marys’ Bible to be donated to Elbląg Academic Gymnasium? Maybe with no special thought or maybe – being an immigrant himself – he wanted to honor an English minority in Elbląg? (The beginnings of an English minority in Elbląg are connected with establishing of an office of Eastland Company 1579). These are only hypotheses and putting aside the reasons, the Bible was a generous gift of Perard and a precious item in the book-collection of Gymnasium library, now in possession of Elbląg Library. The book is also a token of variable lots of books, passed from hand to hand as well as of cultural ambitions of the wealthy and well-educated inhabitants of Royal Prussia. Being digitalized the Bible can now be admired by everyone as a part of an overall-European cultural heritage.