William Penn’s Bible figures in Corbett inauguration

After eight years under Gov. Ed Rendell, some Philadelphia political observers wonder how the city will fare under Tom Corbett, who hails from Pittsburgh.

At the Gov.-elect’s inauguration ceremony, Philadelphia may not be center stage politically, but it will be literally. The Bible on which Corbett will lay his hand for the oath of office comes from Philadelphia.

The small holy book – just 3 inches by 6 inches – was William Penn’s personal copy, printed in 1698.

Most elected officials in Harrisburg are sworn in on the State Assembly Bible, printed in 1739. Corbett specifically requested Penn’s Bible. After doing some digging, a librarian at the state archive discovered the book was stored at the Pennsylvania Historical Society in Philadelphia.

Lee Arnold, the library director at the Historical Society, handles the book’s delicate pages with white gloves. Penn, a Quaker, made no marginal notes, nor did he underline passages.

“We know he read his Bible, but he was not a literalist or fundamentalist with the Bible,” said Arnold “He didn’t take every word literally, and he did not think the Bible was infallible — that there were errors, perhaps, in it. He was a typical Quaker of that time.”

The last time the Bible was used for a state function was 1979, to swear in Gov. Dick Thornburgh. Tom Ridge also requested it in 1995, but withdrew that request before his inauguration.

Although only Republicans have requested it, the Penn Bible has no known party affiliation.

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