According to the BBC, the 1620 Llanwnda Bible spent nearly four centuries at St. Gwyndaf’s Church in the Pembrokeshire village of Llanwnda. It was in the church during an invasion in 1797.
Dr. John Morgan-Guy, honorary research fellow at the University of Wales Trinity St David, told the BBC that the Bible is unique because it is one of the oldest in Wales and because of its “association with the last invasion on British soil all those years ago.”
“It did well to survive when you consider what it must have been through,” he said, explaining that the invaders likely came upon the Bible on the lecturn when they entered the church.
“Expert analysis of the Bible suggests these soldiers grabbed it by the hard cover and tore the bindings, which were made of wood and thick, strong string, from the paper with considerable force,” he said. “They then ripped handfuls of sheets from the Bible and used them to start a fire outside so they could cook food and keep warm.”
“Alas, some of the sheets were used for more basic purposes by the soldiers,” politely describing how some soldiers may have used pages as toilet paper.
“Thankfully, a large part of the Bible has survived and now we have to continue to conserve what we have,” he said. “We do not want to restore it because its interest lies in what happened to it as much as what it is.”
What was left of the Bible — about 60 percent of its original version — then spent more than 200 years at the church.
Then, in the 1990s, it was discovered in the church, wrapped in a black plastic bin liner, St. Gwyndaf’s current vicar, the Rev. Sarah Geach, told the BBC.
“The story goes that the book was rediscovered at the back of the church in the 1990s and nobody realised what it was,” Geach said. “The parish made a cabinet but, of course, they were not able to store it under the right conditions and over a period of time it started to deteriorate.”
The Diocese of St. David’s gave the book to conservators at the University of Wales’ Trinity St David’s Lampeter campus, who treated it and prepared it for public display.
Morgan-Guy said that if the Bible had remained at St. Gwyndaf’s, “it would only have disintegrated further, due to the elements.”
“When it goes back to the church later this year, it will be kept inside a temperature and humidity-controlled glass cabinet and it will be on display for everyone once again for many centuries to come, I hope,” he said.