Collection of Bibles on the Move
A collection of hundreds of printed and manuscript bibles dating from the 14th-19th centuries is in the process of changing hands. The collection, formed by noted bookseller John Gilson Howell (1874-1956) over the course of his life, had been owned by the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, Ca. since 1955. Pacific has decided to sell the Howell bible collection through the Philadelphia Rare Book and Manuscript Co. (PRBM) and John Windle of San Francisco and most of the books are now resident here in Philadelphia.The collection consists primarily of printed bibles including a number of highly desirable editions. Among these are six incunabula including a 1480 Koberger bible as well as an array of other early printings such as the 1536 "mole" edition of the Tyndale New Testament, the 1550 Estienne Greek New Testament (USTC 150710), as well as the 1540 "Great Bible", 1568 "Bishop's Bible", and of course the 1611 King James Bible.
1550 Estienne Greek New Testament from the Howell Collection (PRBM)
For now information about the collection is still available through the Pacific website as well as in a promotional pamphlet produced in the 1940s to aid in its original sale. However, as far as I can tell, no formal catalog of the Howell Bible Collection was ever published, though a typescript catalog of Howell's purchases is available in the Graduate Theological Union library. Further details may be available in the Howell business and family archives held at Stanford University.
The bibles in the Howell collection have followed a familiar cycle: from the market to a collector/bookseller like John Howell, then to an institutional home, like at Pacific, and now back again into the market to be reshaped. Dispersing institutional collections is always a controversial and fraught process but in a way the sale of the Howell collection helps highlight for me the constant flux of the rare books ecosystem, and the role of material and economic forces in the creation and recreation of the things we call "collections."
[**Update 10 Dec. 2013: PBA just announced an upcoming sale (Dec. 19) of Fine Books With Early Works From The Pacific School of Religion**]
 Jennifer Larson, "Warren Howell" in American Book Collectors and Bibliographers, First Series. Ed. Joseph Rosenblum. [Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 140], (Detroit: Gale Research, 1994), p.91. For more on the Howell business see the oral history conducted with Warren Howell in 1966 and digitized by UC-Berkeley: Two San Francisco bookmen : oral history transcript and related material, 1966-1967