November 14, 2020 – January 17, 2021
January 30, 2020 – February 28, 2021
(Closed Nov. 26, Dec. 24-25, and Jan. 1)
(Open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 25 and Dec. 23)
Esther B. O’Keeffe Gallery: East Gallery
In God We Trust: Early Bible Printings and Founding Documents from the David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection is an extraordinary exhibition of historic American Bibles and religious texts, many of which have rarely been displayed.
The exhibition features 18 books from the Americana Collection of Mr. Rubenstein, a prominent American businessman and philanthropist. Organized by the New-York Historical Society in collaboration with Mr. Rubenstein’s library consultant, In God We Trust presents the stories of these books and the ingenuity and diversity of the early Americans who made them.
Books are among the most important evidence of what citizens of a particular nation find meaningful to them. In the early decades of the American colonies, it was the Bibles and other sacred works printed, sold, and purchased by settlers that were treasured above all. In God We Trust is at once the story of these first American printed books and the tremendous will of the early Americans who produced them. The exhibition’s centerpiece, “The Bay Psalm Book,” was America’s first book, produced by English settlers who brought a printing press across the ocean to be able to print in their new land. In God We Trust is a story of American diversity, with examples of Bibles printed in what is now the U.S. in a variety of languages such as English, German, Hebrew, and Algonquian, reflecting the range of religious denominations present in America from early on. The exhibition also tells the story of unique American traditions, like the use of a Bible for presidents to swear the oath of office on Inauguration Day, and of the nation’s evolution towards greater inclusivity, with the first Bibles printed and translated by women.
Presented in beautiful custom-built display cases, the books are accompanied by rich narratives about their writers, printers, bookbinders, and publishers.
Visitors to the exhibition will also enjoy listening to music from one of the books. This is hymn music, recorded by students from Palm Beach Atlantic University’s School of Music & Fine Arts, from the first American book of music printed from type.
The exhibition includes displays about letterpress printing and the art of bookmaking created by IS Projects, a public access printmaking and book arts studio in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
This exhibition has been organized by the New-York Historical Society in collaboration with the David M. Rubenstein Americana Collection.