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1515 Bible: A true gift

Walter and Meg Mattix, in blue, donated a nearly 500-year-old Bible to the Old Ursuline Convent Museum. Walter’s father, William, was a master cabinet maker and book-lover and acquired the Bible in the late 1950s. The Bible will be on display at St. Mary Church, 1116 Chartres St.

William Wade Mattix Sr. of New Orleans was a master cabinet maker and also a bibliophile.

His expansive study was filled with hundreds of books, some of them quite rare.

One of the rarest – a 1515 Bible printed in Nuremberg, Germany, about 60 years after the invention of movable type – now belongs to the Old Ursuline Convent Museum (part of the Catholic Cultural Heritage Center) through a donation by Mattix’s son Walter and his wife Meg.

“Frankly, I’m Methodist, but I know that in Europe at the time, the dominant religion was Catholic,” Walter Mattix said May 16 at St. Mary Church on Chartres Street, where the Bible will remain on permanent display. “I figured this was originally a Catholic book from a monastery. I thought it belonged to the Catholic Church. That’s why I contacted St. Louis Cathedral, which to me is the premier organization in New Orleans for Catholics.”

After a few inquires, Mattix got in touch with Msgr. Crosby Kern, the former rector of St. Louis Cathedral, who died in 2012.

The Bible was appraised in the 1990s for about $7,000. The only Bible older in archdiocesan archives is a 1475 edition owned by Notre Dame Seminary.

“We haven’t had one given to us by a family to put on permanent display,” said Emilie Leumas, archdiocesan archivist. “This is incredibly important for us.”

Mattix said he was just happy the Bible made it with all of its sacred chapters.

“As kids, we damaged it a little bit by knocking some of the leather off the outside cover,” Mattix said. “I’m surprised it survived my family intact!”

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