June 14, 2010
By GERALDINE FABRIKANT
OKLAHOMA CITY — At least one example of the printed word is in great demand even in the digital age: ancient Bibles.
With a goal of establishing a national Bible museum of great depth and size, the evangelical Christian family behind the Hobby Lobby chain of craft stores has been spending heavily to amass a collection that has set dealers buzzing in the staid world of rare books.
Specialists estimate the family has bought illuminated, or decorated, manuscripts, Torahs, papyri and other works worth $20 million to $40 million from auction houses, dealers, private collectors and institutions, some of which may be selling because of financial pressure.
The man leading the effort is Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, a private company based here that is a favorite of scrapbook makers, do-it-yourselfers and home decorators. The company, founded by his father, David, in 1972, now numbers 439 stores and has generated a family fortune that Forbes magazine estimates at $2.5 billion.
With money to spare, the younger Mr. Green, 46, has found a passion to complement his vocation, and is working with specialists in deal-making and history who, using company money on behalf of the family, began buying with a flourish about six months ago.
“They have caught everyone’s attention because no one in recent memory has spent so much so quickly on Bibles,” said Dr. Eric White, curator of special collections at the Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.
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