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Reading the Douay-Rheims Bible


Reading the Douay-Rheims Bible

Falvey Library holds a set of the first edition Catholic Bible, Douay-Rheims. The Rheims New Testament was first published in 1582 and the Douay Old Testament was published almost 30 years later. Together, these two copies comprise the first complete Catholic Bible to be printed in English. English-Catholic priest, scholar, and translator Gregory Martin (1542-1582) based his English translation on the Latin Vulgate Bible. In addition to the first edition set, this section showcases other historic Douay-Rheims bibles from the collections including the first American edition Catholic bible, printed here in Philadelphia.  

Villanova’s copies of these revolutionary Catholic bibles are rife with evidence of historic reading practices. Biblical scholar George Leo Haydock (d. 1774-1849) published a popular edition of the Douay New Testament in 1811, which featured printed reading aids such as annotations and references. Nineteenth-century readers of the Douay-Rheims wrote in the margins, recorded important dates, and even included personal ephemera in their family bibles. This translation served as the standard Roman Catholic English Bible until the twentieth century.