The National Library of Israel has given the public online access to a George Washington "thumb Bible." The rare 200-year-old sacred writ contains paraphrased texts from the Old and New Testaments.
The Bible measures 2 by 1.375 inches, and on its pages are woodcut illustrations of key scenes and figures from the Scriptures. Only a dozen copies or less of this miniature book exist today since its printing in 1813 to 1815.
John Taylor, an English poet from the 16th-17th century, created the miniature Bible which also had a dedication to Washington. The inscription on the first page reads: "To his Excellency G. Washington, President of the United States of America. Most hopeful George, into thy hands we give, The sum of that which makes us ever live. And tho' the volume and the work be small, Yet it contains the sum of all in all."
Thumb Bibles were popular in the early 19th century as way to teach children to read and appreciate literature. The George Washington thumb Bible is part of the Valmadonna Trust Library that consists of over 13,000 Hebrew books and manuscripts.
The National Library of Israel acquired the collection in 2017 with the help of avid collectors David and Jemima Jeselsohn, as well as the Haim and Hana Solomon Fund. The library will eventually showcase the whole collection once its new building opens its doors to the public in Knesset, Jerusalem, in 2021.
Other notable items from the Valmadonna collection include a Pentateuch scroll from the 12th century, which has been written in Samaritan alphabet; a Hebrew Bible from 1189; a Pentateuch from Constantinople that dates back to 1547; a prayer book from Fez in Morocco that dates back to 1516; and a newspaper article from 1666 about Sabbatai Zevi, who was believed to be the Messaiah.
Meanwhile, the online version of the George Washington thumb Bible can be read online at the library's website.