NY Public Library Three Faiths Exhibit Inspired by the British Library

Exerpts from the New York Times article by Edward Rothstein – October 22, 1010

NYPL Three Faiths Exhibit

NYPL Three Faiths Exhibit

“The sweep of the new exhibition at the New York Public Library — Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam — is stunning. It stretches from a Bible found in a monastery in coastal Brittany that was sacked by the Vikings in the year 917, to a 1904 lithograph showing the original Temple Emanu-El on Fifth Avenue. It encompasses both an elaborately decorated book of 20th-century Coptic Christian readings and a modest 19th-century printing of the Gospels in the African language Grebo. There are Korans, with pages that shimmer with gold leaf and elegant calligraphy, and a 13th-century Pentateuch from Jerusalem, written in script used by Samaritans who traced their origins to the ancient Northern Kingdom of Israel.

The library’s Gutenberg Bible is here, as well as its 1611 King James translation. The first Koran published in English is shown, from 1649, along with fantastical images from 16th-century Turkish and Persian manuscripts in which Muhammad is pictured with other prophets, his face a blank white space in obeisance to the prohibition against his portrait.”

This exhibition grew out of a show mounted in 2007 at the British Library called Sacred, a groundbreaking exhibition that caused a buzz in London. The exhibit brought together for the first time at the British Library some of the world’s most important religious texts representing the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths.

Exquisite and rare examples of the three faiths’ sacred texts from the Library’s own collection, considered one of the greatest in the world, were presented alongside treasures on loan from other institutions in a compelling modern context.

The original plan was for a joint exhibition of the New York Public Library and the British Library, but the British Library backed out, worried that post-9/11 inspections by the Transportation Security Administration could put its rare manuscripts at risk. So, while the British catalog is for sale here, the show is different, reconstructed using the New York library’s own collection by H. George Fletcher, the library’s retired director of special collections, and a team of five scholars and advisers.

“Three Faiths: Judaism, Christianity, Islam” is on view through Feb. 27 at the New York Public Library; nypl.org.

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