Lay not up treasures for yourselves upon the Earth, . . . where thieves dig through and steal.
So reads Matthew 6:19 in the Geneva Bible. Sadly, thieves did steal a 1615 copy of that Bible—and many other items—from a Pittsburgh museum. The robbers are facing charges; the Bible is back where it belongs. But many stolen goods are still missing.
Geneva Bibles aren’t especially rare or expensive. Their value lies in their historical and religious importance.
In 1560, the Geneva Bible was published in Switzerland, over 50 years before the better-known King James version. It was the first widely available, mass-produced “study Bible.” It included book introductions, cross references, illustrations, maps, and indexes. Many people—including Oliver Cromwell, John Bunyan, and William Shakespeare—used this version of the scriptures. In 1620, the Pilgrims on the Mayflower carried Geneva Bibles.
Last year, the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh discovered that more than 300 rare books, maps, and atlases were missing. A former archivist at the library and a rare book dealer are accused of stealing more than $8 million worth of artifacts during the 1990s. The archivist took the items a few at a time, and the book dealer sold them. Among these was a Geneva Bible.
After charges were filed against the thieves, the director of the American Pilgrim Museum in Leiden, the Netherlands, contacted police. The museum had paid $1,200 for a Geneva Bible from the same shady book dealer.
The FBI confirmed it was the Bible from the Carnegie Library. The investigators shipped it to FBI offices in Pittsburgh for processing. Now the Bible is back in the Carnegie Library.
So far, prosecutors have found just 18 of the stolen books. The recovered volumes include a copy of Isaac Newton’s Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica valued at $900,000. It is important because it contains the first publishing of Newton’s laws of gravity and motion. John Adams’ A Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America, valued at $20,000, was also returned to the library. It contains Adams’ examinations of the ideas that helped found the early U.S. system of government, including balance of power and voter turnout.
FBI agent Robert Jones believes “some probably are in private collections.” With hundreds still missing, officials encourage museums and people to check their collections: Could they contain something stolen from the Pittsburgh library?