The Bible in which President Andrew Jackson’s family recorded household births, marriages, and deaths for more than half a century now belongs to UT Libraries.
The libraries recently acquired the Bible with money from endowments and donations from members of UT Library Society. It will be preserved and housed in Special Collections in the John C. Hodges Library and will be on display in the Special Collections reading room later this month.
“More than a cherished family relic, the Jackson family Bible is a treasure of national significance,” said Steven Smith, dean of UT Libraries. “It is precisely the sort of rare and unique document of our state’s history and politics that Special Collections is meant to preserve. We are thrilled to be able to return President Jackson’s family Bible to Tennessee.”
Jackson was the hero of the Battle of New Orleans in the War of 1812. He also was the first U.S. president from Tennessee and the first Tennessean to serve in the US House of Representatives. His family estate, the Hermitage, is in Nashville and is now a historical site.
Scholars at UT’s Papers of Andrew Jackson project knew of the Jackson family Bible’s existence through historical newspaper accounts. Jackson took a formal tour of New England in the summer of 1833. On June 17, in Hartford, Connecticut, several visitors brought presents to Jackson in his hotel room. Among them were Silas Andrus and James Walker Judd, publishers whose prominent Hartford firm specialized in Bibles and religious books. As reported in the press, they presented Jackson with “an elegant copy of their Stereotype Edition of the quarto Bible, elegantly bound in red morocco, and gilt.” Jackson’s name was embossed on the front cover, and “Righteousness Exalteth a Nation” emblazoned on the back.
The Bible vanished from public record after that moment. For a century and a half, no one outside the Jackson family knew what had happened to the Bible.
“We make it our business to track down every surviving Jackson document we can,” said Dan Feller, UT professor of history and the editor and director of The Papers of Andrew Jackson. “In our files is a thick folder labeled ‘Jackson Family Bible.’ The correspondence in that folder chronicles our efforts over a span of decades to locate several Bibles that purportedly belonged to Jackson, but it makes no mention of this one.”
In recent decades, the survival of the Andrus & Judd Bible was rumored. A few years ago, the Bible’s owner surfaced briefly. Without ever meeting or knowing the identity of the owner, Feller was able to verify from photographs that the Bible was indeed the one presented to Jackson in Hartford. Eventually, Feller’s contacts among antiquarian book lovers turned up the treasure. The Bible was offered for sale earlier this year, and the libraries secured the historical artifact.
Purchase of the Bible was made possible by donations from the Angelyn Donaldson and Richard Adolf Koella Historical Documents Endowment, the McGregor Smith Library Endowment, the Anonymous Library Endowment Fund, and the United Foods Humanities Library Endowment. It also was made possible through contributions from Library Society members Samuel Elliott, Jeff Johnson,Charles B. Jones Jr., Steven and Natalie Smith, and Chuck West.
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