The Tyndale Exhibition in California

'Let There Be Light', the British Library's Tyndale exhibition, ran for just, over four months at the end of 1994 and early in 1995. It had more than 42.000 visitors. That display of Tyndale's printed books and background material became an important part of the national, and international Quincentenary celebrations. As curator, I was always moved to see people pause in front of the letter Tyndale wrote from prison, his 1526 New Testament, and one especially of the ten cases, full of the little books he wrote and translated, including New Testaments and Pentateuchs, for Anne Boleyn and for the ploughboy's pocket.

In November 1996 the exhibition began a tour of the United States of America. It opened in southern California, at the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino, an attractive suburb of greater Los Angeles. Scholar, the world over know the Huntington as one of the greatest centres of learning in the world — and it is certainly the most pleasant to use. Henry F Huntington was a railroad king: he founded in 1919 this astonishing library a remarkable art collection, and 230 acres of special gardens.

'Let There Be Light' was the first visiting exhibition the Huntington had ever received. Late in 1996, in the warm mid-November sunshine, with wide beds of golden and mauve chrysanthemums lighting up the stonework, the Tyndale books, labels and panels arrived. Ann de Lara from the British Library was there to check, and then seal, the glass cases: she had brought with her the million-pound 1526 New Testament (which, courtesy of British Airways, flew Club Class with her as Mr A. Book). Alan Jutzi, Curator of Rare Books at the Huntington, had been able to include some of their Own precious holdings. His enthusiasm, hard work and friendliness made the whole experience very special, not only for me.

In the events of the week of the launch, everyone appreciated the presence and keen interest of David Zeidberg, Director of the Library. Catherine Babcock, the indefatigable Communications Director, organised television coverage, some of it extensive, by Fox News At Ten, CNN, CBS and KCET 'Life and Times', and live radio interviews. Many newspapers carried stories, including the LA Times and Wall Street Journal. Dorothy, my wife, was able to join me for the middle week: we met many keen and fascinating people. I lectured every day to groups of all sizes, and opened the exhibition with a formal lecture to two hundred acutely interested Californians, an occasion attended also by John Ashworth, the new Chairman of the British Library Board, and Jane Carr, BL Director of Public Services. Included as guests at a formal lunch given by the President of the Huntington, Robert Skotheim, were the British Consul-General and his wife, Merrick and Chrystal Baker-Bates: he is an Oxford man from Hertford College and knew all about Tyndale.

Attracted by banners outside, the Huntington visitor to the exhibition saw first the Hertford portrait (a fine copy) and (Alan Jutzi's excellent idea) on a wall behind it a finely made time-line placing Tyndale's life with kings and queens, Erasmus and Luther, and so on. In the spacious room behind, in excellent lighting, the visitor could move easily from case to case — accompanied, if needed, by one of a hundred Docents willing to explain. (Docents are specially trained volunteers: I found them the most stimulating and demanding audience.)

During the week, I lectured on Tyndale to senior academics at UCLA, before going on alone to Utah and Rick Duerden and then San Diego and Barry Ryan. Everywhere the interest in Tyndale, and the Society, was acute — and often very surprised, with people asking why they had not been told about him before.

The exhibition closed on 8 February, to go on to New York Public Library. In under three months, it welcomed over 30,000 visitors. 5,000 came in the last week, and sometimes had to queue for an hour and a half.

The Huntington, under the direction of Robert C. Richie, Director of Research, arranged a one-day symposium on Tyndale on Saturday 11 January. This was addressed by David Scott Kastan of Columbia University, New York; Sister Anne O'Donnell of the Catholic University of America, Washington DC, Arthur Slavin of the University of Louisville, and me. These Huntington events have variable attendances: the Tyndale Symposium attracted 173, the second highest attendance ever, and a most gratifying assembly of people to speak to, including some who came specially from distant States.

So many Huntington staff were involved, and gave superlative — and always gracious — attention. They, and I, continue to receive letters and phone calls saying how visitors to the exhibition found themselves deeply moved.

I was able also on that January visit to go again to Utah and lecture to extremely appreciative audiences at Brigham Young University, and to talk to a well-attended Forum on the Sunday morning at the Church of Our Saviour in LA. I also made a fort-minute tape on Tyndale for an organisation which sends these tapes to every college and university in the States.

The presence of Tyndale, and the Society, is strengthening in America. I shall report in the next issue on the next parts of the tour.

David Daniell

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