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Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center

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Washburn College Bible

The Washburn College bible.The Washburn College Bible was designed by renowned graphic artist Bradbury Thompson . The three-volume, limited edition was published in 1979 and featured in several publications, including the New York Times, Smithsonian, London Daily Telegraph and Time.

Beginnings of the Washburn College Bible

Chicago publisher Marshall Field V approached Thompson, ba ’34, about redesigning the World Book Encyclopedia and Chicago Daily News in the 1960s. In 1969, Field also asked Thompson to design a bible for the Field Enterprises organization.

Thompson, a descendent of a Presbyterian missionary who established several churches in Kansas, spent several years working on the project.

The work

Thompson used 10-inch-by-14-inch pages and the most legible Roman type available at the time: 14-point Garamond. He arranged the text in phrases, separating them where the reader naturally hesitated or stopped.

He worked with fellow famous designers J. Carter Brown, director of the National Gallery of Art. and Joseph Albers, a professor of painting at Yale University. Brown selected the art and Albers designed the frontispieces.

Washburn lends a hand

As a result of a recession in 1972 and 1973, Field Enterprises abandoned the project.

Thompson approached the Washburn College Board of Trustees in 1977 about becoming the publisher of the bible, but the board’s by-laws prohibited the use of endowment funds for such projects.

But the project did interest one of Washburn’s benefactors, Olive White Garvey, who agreed to become the underwriter with the condition that earnings from its sales be used for a permanent display and tribute to Bradbury Thompson and the Washburn Bible.

Late in 1977, the board of trustees accepted Garvey’s offer and authorized the acquisition of all interests in the bible from Field Enterprises. Her daughter, Ruth Garvey Fink, became chairwoman of the Washburn Bible Committee.


The three-volume limited edition of the bible was published for sale in 1979. A smaller version, the Oxford Edition of the Washburn College Bible, was published by Oxford University Press in 1980. The Book of the Month Club made the edition a special selection and 25,000 readers purchased it through that organization.

The last numbered copy of the limited edition is on display in the Bradbury Thompson Alumni Center.

You can purchase a copy of the Oxford Edition of the Washburn College Bible at the Washburn University Bookstore.