The original collection reflected Quayle’s wide interests. The earliest is a 13th century illuminated manuscript; the latest, a 20th century King James Bible published by the Dove’s Press. Bible highlights include a New Testament of Tyndale (1549), a Great Bible made for Henry VIII (1539), a Geneva Bible (1560), two King James Bibles (1611), a Genoa Psalter (in which Arabic characters first appeared in print), and a leaf of John Eliot’s Algonquin New Testament (1661). But he also collected historical texts by Josephus and Luther, prayer books, books of hours, sermon collections and treatises.
Under the watchful eyes of Hattie Osborne, the first Quayle curator, and President John Scarborough who took a special interest in the collection, it grew quickly. Gifts and purchases filled out and enhanced the collection under Mary McCormick, Ray Firestone, John Forbes, and Kay Bradt. These later additions include a leaf of the Gutenberg Bible (1456), the Nuremberg Chronicle (1493), William Blake’s illustrations for the book of Job (1825), illuminated breviaries (eleventh through fourteenth centuries), clay tablets from Ur (2000 BCE). The collection now numbers over six hundred volumes.