This exhibition highlights Bibles from the collection of Elizabeth Perkins Prothro (1919–2009), who donated nearly five hundred volumes in more than fifty languages to Bridwell Library in 1996. One of Southern Methodist University’s great benefactors, Mrs. Prothro was the daughter of Joe and Lois Perkins, whose generosity endowed Perkins School of Theology. She graduated from SMU in 1939, one year after her marriage to Charles N. Prothro (1918–2001) of Wichita Falls. In 1962, a Bridwell Library exhibition of fifteenth-century printing inspired her to collect rare books. Her husband’s gift of six early volumes for their twenty-fifth anniversary on January 14, 1963 laid the foundation of a remarkable collection that reflects Mrs. Prothro’s life-long love of scripture and a connoisseur’s appreciation of historically significant editions.
Bridwell Library hosted the first exhibition of the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection in 1966. In 1990, one hundred Bibles from her collection were featured in the inaugural exhibition in The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries, given by her husband for their fiftieth anniversary in 1988. Donated to Bridwell in 1996, her Bibles have played important roles in many of the library’s exhibitions, including small exhibits marking her honorary SMU degree in 1996 and the rededication of Perkins Chapel on her birthday in 1999. Sixty of her Bibles were shown in a ten-year anniversary exhibition in 2006, for which her family donated additional early Bibles in her honor.
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Bible Collection invites continual use at Bridwell Library. The Bibles appear in many exhibitions and are shown regularly to visiting groups, examined by students, and consulted by scholars from around the world. The collection will continue to inspire future students of the Bible, its history, and its lasting influence.