FULTON, Ill. — As Fulton resident Jon Lockhart’s ancestor Daniel Bowen made his way to America from England in the late 1700s, his “most prized possession” was a book given to him by his father.

The book, written in 1633 by the Bishop of Dery and entitled “A Treatise of Ivstification (Justification),” has been in Jon’s family for hundreds of years, and is one of only 23 known copies in the world.

“Can you imagine coming over (to America) at a time when it took a month or two to get here, sometimes in horrible weather, and your most prized possession is a heavy book?” asked Vickie Lockhart, Jon’s wife. “That must have been very important to him.”

The Lockharts, who own Artistry Gifts and Glass in Fulton, recently donated the work to the Newberry Library in Chicago, world-renowned for its extensive collection of rare books, maps, music and manuscripts.

“We have no children to pass anything to,” Vickie said. “If anything happened to us, we didn’t want the book to be discarded.”

Vickie is relieved the manuscript, which was previously in the library of the family home, is finally somewhere it can be properly cared for.

“It was my job to dust it, move it, take care of it,” Vickie said. “”I’ve been so afraid for years that if something happened to it, it would be my fault.”

The Lockhart’s lawyer and family friend, William Burch of Morrison, Ill, had suggested to the couple years ago that they contact the Newberry, and when Burch passed away recently, it “renewed several conversations” about the book’s fate.

The Lockharts contacted Paul Saenger, the Newberry’s curator of Rare Books and Collection Development librarian. Saenger told the Lockharts there were 22 other documented copies of the book, and he was unaware another one existed.

“He was very excited,” Vickie said. “He made an appointment with us immediately, and we went into Chicago to see him.”

The library has already authenticated the book, and now experts are working to evaluate the book and conduct an extensive appraisal.

The Lockhart’s estimate it’s value at up to $3,000.

The manuscript, which is a comprehensive study of Protestantism and the Divinity, “is an important book for the history of English Protestantism and fits perfectly into the Newberry’s extensive collections on the history of religion,” wrote Saenger in a letter to the Lockharts.

The book will be cared for in a climate-controlled environment, and be made available to religious scholars for study.

“They were grateful that we saw the need to care for this properly,” Vickie said. “The most important thing is it will be cared for and studied by people it means something to.”

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