Clearing Off 9 Feet of shelf space … for my Bible

My subject line may seem rather odd to people unfamiliar with Braille and how demanding it can be when it comes to physical space. If you’re in that category or if you’re in the mood for an interesting and true story, feel free to keep reading.
when I was around ten or eleven years of age, one of my public school teachers did something which, if she had done it today to a different sort of kid, might have found herself in some pretty hot water, nicely heated by the nonsensical claim that church and state simply don’t mix. This woman, who was very likely a Christian, gave me a Braille letter from an organization in Florida known as the Braille Bible Foundation.
This organization was and, as far as I know, is still in the business of distributing free Braille Bibles to any Braille reader who wants one. This letter was an introductory letter from that organization, extending the offer to receive a Bible. Growing up Jewish in a Jewish family, I found this to be interesting. I had always taken my Jewish faith very seriously and was already reading bible storybooks for kids. I told the teacher that I would be willing to receive one and, in a short time, I received volume 1 of what was an 18-volume set of the Protestant King James Bible, minus the material still found in today’s Catholic Bibles. Many people mistakenly assume that these were “extra books” added by the Catholic church where, in fact, these books had always been part of the canon until way after Martin Luther’s time. There are many books and articles which have been written about this topic. I’ll direct you to a wonderful article by Catholic apologist Mark Shea titled 5 Myths About Seven Books if you’d like to read more about this material.
As I was saying, I now had the first volume in my Bible. Braille takes up much more space on a page than standard print. A typical novel might consist of two, three or even four very thick Braille volumes. Of course, this was before the days of the Internet, DAISY book players and Braille display technology which would have allowed me to carry several different Bible translations along with a couple of magazines, newspapers and a few novels for good measure in case I ran out of reading material.
Anyway, this was quite a gift for me. The book had an introductory letter before the first chapter of genesis, indicating that I could request additional volumes by calling the Braille Bible Foundation.
I didn’t make that call immediately but, a few years later, I requested the rest of the Jewish scriptures or the books which we usually refer to as the Old Testament.
Sometime later, probably in my teen-age years, I requested the New Testament books and my set was complete, consisting of 18 volumes and taking up about a shelf and a half of space to hold all of those books.
I forgot to mention that I also managed to acquire a dictionary titled “the American Vest Pocket dictionary.” I’m sure the print edition could probably have been carried in a person’s vest pocket. The Braille edition of that pocket-sized reference consisted of seven volumes.
That trusty, well-read KJV version of the scriptures was one of the few books I actually owned, considering how expensive it was and still is to produce Braille materials. It went with me as I moved approximately six times and, until a few days ago, still sat on my shelves in my office at home.
Around a year ago, a Catholic library called the Xavier Society for the Blind informed their patrons that they were able to produce a complete Braille edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition for free distribution. They indicated that this set would consist of … hold your breath … 45 volumes.
they also recorded it on CDs in MP3 format and I decided to request the CD edition. I didn’t feel I’d be able to make enough room for 45 volumes and I knew the CD edition would take up far less space on a shelf. The CD edition was nicely packaged in one container and I didn’t have to worry about shelf space.
At this point, you might be wondering why there was such a big jump from 18 to 45 volumes. In addition to the seven books I briefly mentioned earlier, as well as portions of the books of Daniel and Esther which don’t appear in most Protestant Bibles, this edition contains several volumes of footnotes, which my old KJV edition did not have.
Anyway, a few months ago, one of the Xavier Society’s newsletters indicated that a second order was being made for more Bibles and this opened up an opportunity for more readers to order one. I thought about it and felt that I could probably make room for it provided that I find a good home for my KJV.
Sure enough, I found a reader who was happy to receive my old Bible. My wife and I boxed up all of the volumes, along with a three-volume concordance to go along with it and the books are now on their way to their new home.
As I now have the first 28 volumes, I knew I’d have to move those boxes out of my living room and start placing them on my shelves before my living room got overrun with boxes. I found enough items I could get rid of and others I could move into a closet and I will now have enough shelf space to hold the entire 45-volume set.
At this point, some of you may be wondering why I’m going to all of this trouble to make room for 45 thick Braille volumes when I can go online and access many different translations of the Bible with no difficulty. I enjoy my technology but sometimes there’s just no substitute for opening an actual book. Sorry, let me explain. For my young readers who know nothing but Kindles and Nooks I should explain that a book is where text is written on paper and the stacks of paper are bound between thicker paper or cardboard known as a cover. Never mind. I just really enjoy reading my Bible as a book and I’m so pleased that I’ll be able to own not only a Bible that’s newer and in good shape but one which is a complete Catholic edition.
Update: During a period of several weeks and nine boxes later, I am now the proud owner of a complete 45 volume edition of the New American Bible, Revised Edition, , which I just had enough room to set up on three and a half shelves. As much as I would absolutely love to own a Braille Catechism, setting that up would probably require us to build an addition to our home. I think I’ll just have to enjoy it online using my iPhone!!


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