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The Young collection comprises 340 volumes given by Arthur Young (1852-1936), a member of Trinity College Cambridge, mostly in two gifts in 1933 and 1934 although around 35 were received after his death. The first gift was described by the chairman of the library syndicate in a letter to the Times of 20th October 1933 as "probably the most valuable benefaction that has been received from any private individual in the long course of our library's history," and it was noted in the Library's Annual Report for 1933-34 that "many of these are books which the Library had long given up hope of acquiring". The value of the collection Young had created is shown when it is considered that nearly 40 of the bibles he gave were unique in the library's holdings until the arrival of the Bible Society's Library in 1985, and 8 English and 9 foreign volumes remain unique even now.

The great value of Young's donation is hard to express without simply listing the books he gave, as their historical significance is immense before we even consider their rarity. The post-1500 printed bibles Young gave cover forty languages, from Latin and the major European languages to some minor dialects such as Lepcha and Motu, and the American Indian dialects Cree, Dakota, Ojibwa and Algonquin (the latter was the first American dialect bible, printed in 1661). The European bibles are mainly sixteenth-century printings, and include copies of the first printed biblical texts in the following languages, in chronological order: French; Swedish; Danish; Spanish; Slovene; Polish; Romansch; Icelandic; Welsh; Finnish; and Portuguese.

As well as these first published translations which are important in their own right in tracing the progress of vernacular access to the bible, Young also gave copies of texts which were historically significant. The Complutensian Polyglot Bible was the first major edition with Hebrew, Greek and Chaldean texts side by side with a Latin commentary (6 vols, 1414-1517). Erasmus's Greek-Latin parallel New Testament was intended to present an authoritative version to counteract earlier corrupted editions, including the Complutensian, and Young gave copies of the first three editions of this, published in 1516, 1519 and 1522. This text was of great importance for the Protestant Reformation since it was upon Erasmus that Luther based his German translations, and Young's gift includes first editions of both Luther's New Testament (1522) and complete bible (1534). A 1550 edition of Luther's bible printed at Nuremburg includes numerous beautiful woodcuts. 

Perhaps the greatest strength of Young's collection is shown in the early English bibles and liturgical texts he gave. These include the earliest known printed English translation of a biblical text, Tyndale's Pentateuch printed in 1530 in Antwerp, as well as his 1534 translation of the New Testament, also printed at Antwerp. There are numerous early editions of Coverdale's translation, including a second issue of the first edition of Coverdale's bible, the first complete English bible, printed in 1535. Other historically significant editions are first edition copies of Tyndale's complete English translation (1537); of Cranmer's Great Bible (1539); a Geneva Bible, the first to be printed with numbered verses and considered to be the first 'study' bible (1560); a first edition Bishops' Bible overseen by Matthew Parker (1568); and a copy of the first bible to be printed in Cambridge by the printers to the university, Thomas and John Buck (1629). There is also a rare 'He' copy of the first King James Authorized Bible of 1611, so called for the misprint in Ruth, chap. 3 verse 15, stating "and he went into the city" instead of "and she went into the city". A table showing the ESTC references of these bibles can be found here.

Further important and rare books in the collection include a copy of the Rheims Bible, considered to be the first Catholic edition, printed in 1582; translations of the New Testament and full bible by John Hollybushe, Edmunde Becke and Richard Taverner and William Whittingham; an early uncorrected edition of Nowell's catechism; a third issue copy of the first edition of the Book of Common Prayer, printed by R. Grafton in 1539 (one of only five copies listed in the ESTC) and one of five known copies of Henry VII's psalter (1504).

Alongside these liturgical texts, Young also gave early editions of Calvin's Christi religionis institutio (1536), and a collection of 40 tracts concerning the Westminster Assembly of Divines, assembled by John Wallis, the Assembly's scribe, with his own handwritten notes and list of contents. Secular works include chronicles by Holinshed (1577) and Grafton (1569); a copy of the Terze Rime, a humanist printing of Dante's Divina Commedia printed in Venice in 1502; an early Paradise Lost(1669); and some of Young's own childhood reading, copies of Funny fables for little folk and The good-natured bear.

Young also gave 27 incunabula and a number of manuscripts. The books have been placed in class Inc but are worthy of brief mention to give a full idea of the remarkable collection Young had assembled. The greatest of Young's gifts was the library's 'Gutenberg' Bible, the 42 line bible produced at Mainz in c. 1455 which was the first major work to be printed using movable type. He also gave a copy of the first dated Bible, printed by Schöffer and Fust on vellum in 1462; a Hebrew Bible printed by Gershon ben Moses in Brescia, 1492-94; a French Bible printed by Guillaume du Roy, Lyons, c. 1478; and 15 other early bibles of which 9 remain unique in the library's collections. As well as liturgical texts Young also gave the library a first printed edition of Dante's Divina Commedia, printed in Foligno in 1472 only 2 years after the printing press first arrived there, as well as another copy from the same year at Mantua and the first edition with textual commentary printed by Vindelinus de Spira in Venice in 1477. The greatest secular treasure of Young's gifts is a copy of Caxton's printing of Voragine's Legenda Aurea, c. 1483, believed to be the only surviving complete copy of the work.

More details of the Young collection.