PROVO — A Bible written in Old Norse nearly 400 years ago has been donated to Brigham Young University's library by a Provo resident.

Thor Leifson, the honorary consul of Iceland emeritus, says the Bible was given to his family by a missionary who converted Leifson's relatives to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints four generations ago.

The 6-inch tome, written in what is now the modern Icelandic language, is part of the second edition of the book printed in Iceland.

BYU curators say the Bible is extremely rare. They say its paper is soft and the ink inside remains a vibrant, deep black, probably due to a wet-printing process that left deep impressions on the page.

Curators determined the Old Testament section of the book was printed in 1643. The New Testament section was printed in 1644.

The volume is also interspersed with wood-cut block print illustrations, that depict scenes from Bible stories, including the baptism of Jesus Christ in the River Jordan and his ascension to Heaven.

"For beauty of language and faithful simplicity of style the finer parts of this version, especially the New Testament, have never been surpassed in any tongue: They stand worthy beside the work of Tyndale, Luther and Ulfila, foremost monuments of the Teutonic tongues," an appraisal report of the book by Rulon Miller Books, a rare-books dealer in Saint Paul, Minn., reads.

The appraised value of the book was not disclosed, but four other copies of the same Bible are known to have sold over the past 30 years, according to the appraisal report. Of those, the one in the best condition sold in 2006 for nearly $16,000.

Eight pages of Leifson's book are missing. The book will be held in the BYU library vault.

"I feel very comfortable putting it into the hands of BYU, because I know it will have proper care," Leifson said.

Scott Duvall, who oversees the library's special collections said the school has one of the largest Bible collections in the region. The collection is focused on texts from the reformation period, but the Old Norse Bible is the first of that language at the school.

"I was surprised that (Leifson) would have something like this in his family," said Duvall.

BYU is planning a major exhibition of it's Bible collection in 2011.