The Bible was originally written in Hebrew and Greek, and to a lesser extent, Aramaic. Christian theology and worship throughout medieval Europe was shaped by St Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible. During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the development of regional languages and the rise of reform movements encouraged numerous vernacular translations of the Bible.

By 1800, biblical translations had been produced throughout Europe and in selected regions beyond. During the nineteenth century the Bible was disseminated, via widespread missionary efforts, in hundreds of languages indigenous to Africa, Asia, the Americas and the Pacific Islands. The Bible is available today in more than 2000 languages.

Bibles were the principal collecting interest of the donor of the Reed Collections, Alfred Hamish Reed (1875-1975). Reed’s collecting focussed primarily on significant editions of the Bible in English. However, he also gathered a considerable range of Bibles translated into ‘other tongues’ – a collection ably reflecting the worldwide transmission of biblical scripture across eight centuries.

The current Reed Gallery exhibition Biblia, Piibli, Paipera: The Bible in Translation thus showcases Bibles from the Reed Collections translated into a diverse range of languages. Featured books include striking early manuscript and printed versions of the Latin Vulgate. European languages are represented by important early English editions, and pre-1800 Bibles in European tongues ranging from German, Italian, Dutch and French, to Estonian, Norwegian, Welsh and Irish.

The later worldwide circulation of Holy Scripture via missionaries is represented by selected biblical texts translated into languages indigenous to Africa, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, including Bibles of the Pacific Islands and important early editions of the Bible in Māori.