TN's first printed 300-year-old Bible traced to London: Idol Wing

The Bible which was an exhibit in 400-year-old Saraswati Mahal Museum in Thanjavur went missing in October 2005.
300-year-old Tamil Nadu's first printed Bible
300-year-old Tamil Nadu's first printed Bible

CHENNAI: The world's first printed Tamil Bible , a 300-year-old antique , which went missing from a Museum in TN in the year 2005, has been traced to King's Collections, London , by Idol wing CID of TN police said TN idol wing DGP Jayanth Murali on Friday.

The Bible which was an exhibit in 400-year-old Saraswati Mahal Museum in Thanjavur went missing in October 2005.

We have started communication with the King's Collections in London and we will be positively getting the antique Bible back soon, said Jayanth Murali.

Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, a missionary worked in South India after his studies at the University of Balle reached Tharangsnbadi in September 1706, along with Heinrich Plueshau from Denmark as the first Protestant missionaries in that country.

He soon set up a printing press and published studies of the Tamil language and Indian religion and culture. His translation of the New Testament into Tamil in 1715 and its first printed copy was handed over to Tulaji Raja Serfoji by another missionary named Schwartz after the death of Ziegenbalg in 1717.

The said Bible, an antiquarian book, later became an exhibit in the Saraswati Mahal Museum.

On 10 October 2005, the Deputy Administrator of the Serfoji Palace filed a complaint at the Tanjore West Police station stating the theft of the antique Bible.

In October 2017, Idol Wing CID received a complaint of the disappearance of an antiquarian Bible from Saraswathi Mahal from one E Rajendran, who gave a complaint which led to the registration of a case of theft in Idol Wing for investigation.

After a special team was constituted under Inspector of Police Ms Indira to trace the missing Bible, a perusal of the visitor's register revealed that there had been some foreign visitors to the museum on 7 October 2005, the day Bible went missing, said a note from idol wing.

Further enquiries revealed that these visitors had come to India to attend a function to commemorate Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg, the Danish missionary, and so when the suspicion pointed out to the foreign visitors the wing launched a search of the websites of various museums in the world, as also Collector's websites and organisations connected with Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg.

After several days of browsing multiple websites of various museums abroad, the Idol Wing stumbled on the collection of English King George III which included thousands of printed books, manuscripts and pamphlets, most of which are rare.

Hidden amongst the thousands of books, Wing discovered the stolen Bible, the first translated antiquarian Bible in Tamil that was printed in a printing press at Tharangambadi in the 17th century with the signature of Rajah Serfoji of Thanjavur himself.

The antiquarian Bible that was available on the website of the Kings Collections tallied with the picture of the stolen Bible.

Further enquiries with the concerned confirmed our findings. The Idol wing hopes to retrieve the Bible and restore it to the Saraswathi Mahal library under the UNESCO treaty soon, added the release.

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