Treasures Await You in the Rare Book Room

Date: July 19, 2023

Coming into the Rare Book Room is like dipping your toes into the sea of Medieval and Reformation history. The Bishop Payne Library’s Rare Book Collection consists of over 5,000 books with emphases on early English Anglican literature, Books of Common Prayer, Bibles, practical theology, and music. This collection offers a visual window into what is considered the Golden Era of Anglican Theology, dated approximately 1549-1700.

From another angle, the collection offers the history of book printing in the hand-press period, 1450-1800. You can witness the books that were printed by many prominent early English printers.

The individual books all have their own stories. One interesting example is a 1761 Book of Common Prayer that was printed in England but has been clearly edited with handwriting to reflect American colonial sensibilities and leanings. This book is displayed on the front table.

When repairing the spines and covers of these treasures, Beth often uncovers living pieces of history. One example is a Martin Luther Bible that has strips of paper with medieval Hebrew handwritten on the spine, which had been covered by centuries of glue. Another fascinating example is a 1682 Thesaurus that had been previously repaired using pieces of medieval music manuscripts.

Come and see some of these interesting items for yourself!

David Buresh, Cataloger/Rare Book Curator
Beth Lewis, Book Conservator
Bishop Payne Library

Back to all