318-Year-Old Scottish Bible: Kathy Magruder’s Remarkable Discovery

In the quiet corners of an Iowa retirement home’s community library, a captivating discovery unfolded in the hands of Kathy Magruder, the owner of Pageturner Books. Nestled among the aging shelves was a seemingly ordinary book that would soon reveal itself as an extraordinary artifact — a 318-year-old Scottish Bible.

The Rabbit Hole of Discovery

Magruder’s journey began when she accepted an invitation from the Calvin Community retirement facility in Des Moines to explore their library’s hidden treasures. Amongst the assortment of aged books, her attention was drawn to a nondescript volume. Little did she know that this book held a history waiting to be unraveled.

A Book with a Tale to Tell

Upon opening the Bible, Magruder noticed the distinct sensory experience it offered — the rustle of pages, the unique texture, and a scent that whispered of centuries past. This tactile encounter prompted her to delve deeper into its origins.

An Illegally Printed Relic

Her research unveiled that this leather-bound Bible was printed in Selkirkshire, Scotland, in 1705. Intriguingly, it seemed to bear the mark of an illegal print, free from the oversight of the church, an act punishable by death during that era.

Tracing the Journey

To trace the path of this ancient Bible from Scotland to Iowa, Magruder needed to identify its original owners. A stroke of luck awaited her as she discovered a handwritten account of a family’s history nestled within the Bible’s pages.

Family Chronicles Unfold

Yellowed and smudged, the manuscript detailed the life of James Burnet and Janet Scott, married in 1761, and their three daughters. The narrative continued, offering glimpses into subsequent generations, marriages, and births until the trail went cold in 1814.

A Printer’s Anomaly

Going further, Magruder investigated the printer, leading her to Andrew Anderson, a London printer in the 1650s. A Facebook group revelation and insights from a rare book collector clarified a copyright misprint — the Bible was printed in 1705, not 1605 as indicated.

The Danger of Printing

The presence of “Cum Privilegio” on the title page indicated explicit permission from the British monarchy, a vital certification during a time when unauthorized printing was a perilous venture.

Unanswered Mysteries

Despite uncovering the Bible’s origins, Magruder couldn’t unlock all its mysteries. The journey from Scotland to an Iowa nursing home remains a tantalizing enigma. Unable to locate the original owners’ descendants, Magruder eventually sold the Bible to a local collector, finding satisfaction in sharing its captivating tale.

Conclusion: A Fascinating Journey Through Time

The 318-year-old Scottish Bible, with its intricate tales of a bygone era, serves as a testament to the enduring allure of historical artifacts. Magruder’s journey of discovery reminds us that even the most unassuming objects can harbor rich narratives waiting to be unveiled.


1. How did Kathy Magruder stumble upon the Scottish Bible?

Magruder discovered the ancient Bible while exploring the library of a retirement home in Des Moines, Iowa.

2. What made the Bible stand out?

The Bible’s distinctive features, including its aged leather binding, unique texture, and historical scent, caught Magruder’s attention.

3. Why was the printing of the Bible considered illegal?

The Bible’s origin in Selkirkshire, Scotland, hinted at an illegal print, free from church oversight, a serious offense at the time.

4. How did Magruder trace the Bible’s journey?

Magruder found a handwritten family history within the Bible, providing clues to its owners and origins.

5. What happened to the Bible in the end?

Unable to locate the original owners’ descendants, Magruder sold the Bible to a local collector, satisfied with sharing its intriguing story.

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