The antique Bible market is hot. But if you don’t have the money to buy a first edition King James Version you still can get your hands on one at the Christian Heritage Museum, whose owner invites visitors to touch and purchase some of the 20,000 pieces in his collection.
Gene S Albert Jr isn’t selling his prized King James first edition, first issue, printed in 1611. The book sits atop a bookcase in the loft of the climate-controlled barn near Hagerstown that houses his museum.
But Albert, who’s been collecting for 25 years, said he wants regular people and not just scholars to have access to the collection, hoping that viewing the artifacts will inspire them to accept Christ as their saviour. Visiting the museum is free by appointment.
“We happen to believe that these were made and meant to be seen,” he said, “And that’s why we put them out for the general public.” On a recent tour, Albert picked up the King James first edition and encouraged a guest to touch a slightly yellowed page, its ornate letters and decorations still clearly legible after 395 years.
The paper felt stiff like the cotton rags from which it was made. Albert takes care with his collection by limiting the number of items that the public can handle and walking with them through the museum.
Collecting and displaying such pieces is a passion for Albert, who also sells rarities at the museum. Among the items is a single page of a 1454 Gutenberg Bible priced at $20,000; a 1685 second edition of John Eliot’s Algonquin Indian Bible, and two handwritten sermon notes by 19th-century English evangelist Charles H Spurgeon.