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400-Year-Old Bible that survived French invasion of Britain goes on display

(Wikimedia Commons/ceridwen)The 1620 Llanwnda Bible is featured in this image.

A leather bound Welsh 400-year-old Bible that outlasted a French invasion, fires and even being used as a toilet paper is currently on display at the Roderic Bowen Library at the University of Wales.

The 1620 Llanwnda Bible had been kept at St. Gwyndaf's Church in the Pembrokeshire village of Llanwnda for almost four centuries, according to BBC.

The book was almost 200 years old when French invaders landed in Llanwnda and raided buildings in their path. When the army of 1,400 French and Irish troops came upon St. Gwyndaf's Church, they reportedly smashed up the pews and used pages from the Bible to start a fire. Historians believe that the soldiers also used the Bible's pages as toilet paper.

The surviving pages of the Bible remained at the church for another 200 years. It was found at the back of the church in the 1990s and was handed over to conservators at the University of Wales' Trinity St David's in Lampeter, West Wales, two years ago.

"The story goes that the book was rediscovered at the back of the church in the 1990s and nobody realised what it was," said Rev. Sarah Geach, the current vicar of St. Gwyndaf's.

"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," Geach added.

The Bible has been placed inside the university's rare books strong room, where the temperatures have been set at a constant 15C and humidity levels at 60 percent to allow the book to dry.

After its two-year stay at the strong room, the Bible went on public display in the university's Roderic Bowen Library, where 35,000 other rare books are kept.

The book will be moved next month to the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, where conservators will carry out further preservation work.

Dr. John Morgan-Guy, an honorary research fellow at Trinity St David's, said the Llanwnda Bible is unique because of its association with the last invasion on British soil.

He noted that the analysis of its pages indicated that the soldiers used considerable force to rip up the book.

"Thankfully, a large part of the bible has survived and now we have to continue to conserve what we have. We do not want to restore it because its interest lies in what happened to it as much as what it is," Morgan-Guy said.

The Bible will eventually return to St. Gwyndaf's, where it will be put on display inside a temperature and humidity controlled glass cabinet.

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