PORTLAND — The Bible Society of Maine is celebrating its 200th birthday this summer and as part of the festivities it will display its big, handwritten Bible at the Portland Public Library. It was the world’s largest Bible when written 85 years ago.

A daring project when undertaken in May 1923, it was completed 14 months later.
Sprung from the imagination of then Bible Society Director Edmund
Garland, it binds together 1,607 pages of transcribed scripture
from the King James version of the Holy Bible. Garland ventured
throughout the state to find people, as young as 6 and as old as 91, to
each transcribe and sign one 23- by 29-inch page of the scripture.

In conjunction with the bicentennial this year, the
Bible Society of Maine committee had the masterpiece restored to be
displayed after years of wear and tear. It’s currently
held in the Portland room of the Portland Public Library, where it will
remain throughout the summer.

As word of the Bible spreads, society Director Sally
Trice hopes that relatives of original transcribers may also emerge.
She described how a curious donor who inquired whether her mother was
an original transcriber found that her mother and aunt
were both part of the project.

On Aug. 13, the society will celebrate its success and longevity with a bicentennial dinner. For 200 years, the society has spread the word of God by providing Bibles to the people of the Pine Tree state. They are written in 56 languages and multiple versions.

Since 1809, its mission has remained the same. Like many Bible
societies throughout the United States, it was founded during a period
when the country’s literacy rate was on the rise. As a result of the
increasingly literate populace, demand for Bibles, which were often
unaffordable to many, also rose.

Unfortunately, the cost of restoring the scripture has put a strain on the organization’s endowment, according to Trice. Going into its third century, the society remains heavily reliant upon funds from donors in order to serve its 22 ministries, roughly half of which are jails and prisons.

“Inmates, often for the first time, have time to stop and ponder their lives. This makes them more receptive to God’s word,” Trice said of the importance of having Bibles and Bible sessions in correctional facilities.

The society’s bicentennial dinner coincides with the gathering of the National Association of State and Regional Bible Societies, held once every two years, according to Trice. The dinner will honor two men who’ve each been board members of Bible Society of Maine for more than 40 years, the Rev. Richard H. Peterson and Joseph H. Hankerson. It will be held at Keeley’s restaurant in Portland. The scheduled speaker is the Rev. Jeffrey McIlwan, a chaplain at the Cumberland County Jail, who will speak about how the Bible has positively changed the lives of many inmates.

Though Trice is expecting around 200 guests at the event, to match the number of years the organization has been in existence, she emphasized that everyone in the community is invited.

“The community needs to be reminded that the Word of God is still important, and they are invited to join in the celebration or our bicentennial,” Trice said.

The bicentennial dinner will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 13 at Keeley’s restaurant.

Tickets are $35.

For more information on the society or to purchase tickets, contact Sally Trice by July 24 at 772-8566. or e-mail [email protected] or go to the society’s Web site at www.biblesocietyofmaine.org

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