The Scriptorium in Orlando opened in 2002 and provides a beautiful showcase for the riches and treasures of the Van Kampen Collection of Bibles and of books related to the Bible.
The Scriptorium also features a replica of a printing press, and it’s quite a structure. It looks like it took a lot of work to produce books and Bibles. We not only have the efforts of translation by folks like Wycliffe and Luther, but we also have the efforts of printers, and of their apprentices, and of those who were making paper and ink and casting the die for the printing press, and all that goes into putting Bibles into the hands of people.
The Scriptorium also contains a number of crucial books—and fragments of crucial books—in the history of the Reformation. One book came long before the Reformation, and it dates to 1455. It is the Gutenberg Bible, the first big book to come off Guttenberg’s movable-type printing press. Prior to the printing press, people had only handwritten manuscripts. So that is what printers copied when they actually printed the pages of the Gutenberg Bible. Later, scribes went back and filled in by hand portions of the Gutenberg Bible, to give it the painted look of a manuscript. The Scriptorium features a fragment of the Gutenberg Bible.
We also find at the Scriptorium an early Hebrew lexicon, a dictionary of Hebrew words. Reuchlin’s Hebrew lexicon from 1506 would have been invaluable to translators of the Hebrew, whether that was into German by Luther and his colleagues at Wittenberg, or into English by others.
You remember that Luther posted his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517. The year before that was also very instrumental. Among the many things that happened in 1516 was the publication of the Greek New Testament. And that is here at the Scriptorium. It’s actually a diglot text. It has two languages, in side-by-side columns. In one column is the Latin text that all scholars were familiar with, but in the other column is the Greek text. This was published at Basel. You can imagine what went into publishing a diglot text with Greek on the one side and Latin on the other. What a work. Little wonder, then, that the next year, after Luther got his hands on the Erasmus text and read the Bible in Greek for the first time, Luther starts raising questions, and it’s off to the races for the Reformation.
Lastly, among the many things at the Scriptorium that are a testament to the Reformation, is not a book or a Bible, but a battered press. It represents what happened to one of the presses that Tyndale was using on the Continent as he was fleeing the king and all of the king’s men to get the Bible printed in English. They couldn’t find Tyndale, but in their rage they smashed the printshop and his press.
The ink that is splattered all over the place is a reminder of not just blood splatter, but also of all the work that went into trying to make the Bible and the gospel available to people. It is a testament to the Reformers, and to their boldness and courage during the Reformation. It can all be found in the Van Kampen Collection at the Scriptorium in Orlando.