A Bognor Regis bookshop owner is on a mission to research and preserve a beautiful eighteenth century tome provided by one of his customers.
It’s an English translation of ‘Antiquities of the Jews’ by Flavius Josephus – a twenty volume history of the Jewish people first published in Greek sometime in the late first century – and Jason Passingham, owner of Heygates Bookshop in the Bognor Regis Railway Station is keen to find out everything he can.
He received the book in late June, from a customer who was ‘having a clear out’.
"They basically asked me if I could do anything with it, that they didn’t want it to end up in the recycling bin,” he explained.
Published in 1754, Mr Passingham’s copy looks to be a new translation by John Court, building on an older work from 1733: "It’s just stunning. It’s got pull-out maps and everything. If this were in the Hogwarts Library, I wouldn’t be surprised.”
At 36cm tall, 26cm wide and 9.5cm deep, ‘stunning’ seems like exactly the right word, but for all it’s beauty, the three hundred year old tome is very fragile.
"You have to be very very careful with it. It’s had a bit of a damage to it and, although it’s not quite at the stage where you’d have to wear gloves, you need to be extremely delicate. It’s about going in to find out more, using fine brushes, taking out excess dirt and dust, but doing it slowly.”
At the moment, Mr Passingham is trying to research the book, to find out if it might be better placed in a museum or a private collection. As priceless as Antiquities of the Jew might turn out to be, he knows he’s sitting on history.
"There are lots of different questions to answer and, until I have those, I’m just going to do my best to research it and find it an appropriate home,” he said.
"This has been through two world wars. If it’s Jewish history, there’s a chance that other copies were burned during the second world war, so I need to do some research to make sure it goes to the right place.”