The acquisition of two outstanding medieval manuscripts – including a rare 13th-century Bible – has bolstered UBC Library’s rare book holdings and provided valuable, real-life texts for teaching and learning.
“These were very strategic acquisitions,” said Siân Echard, head of UBC’s department of English. “They bring the Library’s medieval collection to an entirely new level.”
UBC Library purchased the titles by auction in December. They include a “student Bible” and a private devotional book called a Book of Hours. Both purchases were entirely donor-funded; the Bible cost about $172,000, while the Book of Hours cost about $39,000.
“We’re grateful for the generosity of our supporters,” said Ingrid Parent, UBC’s university librarian. “Their efforts have enabled UBC Library to enhance its medieval collections for research, learning and enjoyment.”
Student Bibles were typically produced in Paris for the university market so pupils and professors could use them for their daily studies. However, UBC Library’s Bible was made in Oxford, England around 1250, making it the only one of its kind in a Canadian collection.
The thick, gorgeous manuscript features intricate text in Latin, which is punctuated by blue and red initials. Notes from past users are scribbled in the margins, while a handwritten “concordance” – or reference section – is featured at the back.
The “Book of Hours” dates to the 15th century, and is written mostly in Latin, with some French. While these texts are more common, this addition to UBC Library’s collection stands out for its stunning, hand-painted illuminations.
Echard has already used both texts to teach her class on the history of the book. “Students react to the age of the manuscripts,” she said. “All of the senses get engaged in a way that just doesn’t happen with a facsimile.”
Financial contributors to the acquisition of the student Bible include Dr. Kenneth Fung, a former member of the UBC Board of Governors. The Breslauer Foundation provided funds for the Book of Hours, marking the first time that the New York-based organization has supported a Canadian institution.
UBC units that provided donations for the student Bible include the faculty of arts and the iSchool@UBC (the school of library, archival and information studies). The department of English and department of French, Hispanic and Italian studies contributed to the purchase of the Book of Hours.
Both manuscripts can be viewed at the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections division, located at the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. Digitized versions of the student Bible and Book of Hours can be viewed via the Library’s open collections portal.
For other stories about UBC Library’s medieval collection, visit “Medieval manuscript’s impact spans centuries” and “UBC Library acquires 800-year-old medieval Papal document.”