Library identifies rare book bound in twelfth century Book of Judith manuscript fragment
When Cataloging Librarian Barbara Tysinger pulled Johann Wittich’s 1589 book “Bericht von den wunderbaren bezoardischen Steinen” (translation: “Report of the wonderful bezoar stones”) off of her cart to add to the university library catalog, she noticed that it was bound in a manuscript fragment. After seeking additional expertise, the Health Sciences Library (HSL) at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is pleased to announce that the binding comes from a twelfth century lectionary. The text, which was donated to the HSL by Drs. Sheldon and Leena Peck as part of the Sheldon Peck Collection on the History of Orthodontics and Dental Medicine, comes from the Book of Judith, which forms part of the Apocrypha in some bibles. An additional fifteenth century manuscript, from Albertus Magnus’s “De Animalibus,” lies mostly obscured beneath the lectionary fragment.
During the late medieval and early modern period, bookbinders commonly used manuscript fragments to serve as an inexpensive binding that would protect the book until the purchaser selected a permanent binding. Since the book was never permanently bound, the original temporary binding remains intact, and serves as an example of the history of bookbinding.
“We were very excited to discover this binding, and wanted to verify that the information we provided about it was as accurate as possible,” said Dawne Lucas, special collections librarian at the HSL. “We therefore consulted with several experts to make sure that we knew as much as we possibly could about it. For example, we originally thought it came from a bible, but closer inspection suggested that it came from a lectionary, which is not the same.”
The HSL would like to thank the following people for providing their expertise about this volume: Dr. Robert Babcock, Department of Classics (UNC); Dr. Scott Gwara, Department of English Language and Literature (University of South Carolina); Dr. Richard Pfaff, Department of History (UNC); Claudia Funke, curator of rare books, Wilson Library (UNC); Jan Paris, conservator for special collections, Wilson Library (UNC); and Andrea Knowlton, assistant conservator for special collections, Wilson Library (UNC).