Elvis, Bach, and their respective Bibles

[ by Charles Cameron — two books their owners have underlined and scribbled in, a practice I generally detest, and the issue of what music is suitable for worship ]


From the Omega Auctions catalogue of the Presley Collection:

Elvis Owned Holy Bible given to him in 1957 on his first Christmas at Graceland (estimate £20,000 – £25,000).

Elvis Presley’s personally owned and used Holy Bible 1957-1977 with Elvis’ handwriting, annotations and underlining throughout. This was Elvis Presley’s most precious book throughout his life from Christmas 1957 to that final day on 16th August 1977 and he read and wrote in this Holy Bible over many years. This sixteen hundred page bible with Elvis Presley and Holy Bible, embossed in gold on a leather cover was given to Elvis by his uncle Vester and Aunt Clettes Presley as a Christmas gift on December 25th, 1957 at Graceland. The bible contains Elvis’ personal annotations throughout its fragile pages. This bible was published by. The John A. Hertel Co., Chicago, IL ©1941.

I’d say that would be a steal at the price!

The auction starts at 3pm GMT on Saturday 8th September 2012 at Meadow Mill, Water St, Stockport, SK1 2BX, UK, but there are viewings on Friday 7th September from 11.00am – 6.00pm and on Saturday 8th September from 8.30am – 10.30am.


Tell you what I’d prefer myself, though — and I would’t even want to own it — just to know it’s there in the Concordia Seminary Library:

Images of Bach's Calov Bible Commentary courtesy of the Library at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

The 3-volume Bible commentary compiled by 17th-century Lutheran theologian, Abraham Calov, and once in the library of Johann Sebastian Bach has been in the Seminary Library collection since it was given to the Seminary by the Reichle family of Frankenmuth, MI, in the 1930s. The volumes are the only known, i.e., identified, books from the library of J. S. Bach. Calov is both editor and author of the commentary, using as he does both Martin Luther’s translation of the Bible and primarily Luther’s comments on the text, adding his own commentary when no material was available in Luther’s works. The work was printed in 1681-82. Some 25 marginal annotations of Bach, along with underlining and other marginal markings, are evidence of the composer’s use of the volumes. Careful analysis of the handwriting, as well as technical analysis of the ink done in the 1980s, established the authenticity of Bach’s ownership.


Is that your final choice?

That is my final choice.


Really what I’m getting at, though, is something that those two books can stand for: the debate now proceeding in the Catholic Church — and in Evangelical and Pentecostal Churches too — as to what kind of music is to be performed in the course of worship. The “battle lines” tend to be drawn between music that is intended to draw in the young, and music that is felt to be well-suited to the sacred.

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