Medieval Manuscripts at Fordham
By Jennifer Owens
Entering Fordham University's Duane Library Special Collections
Room is like taking a step back in history. Cradled by two Gothic
arches , the tiny room emits an aura of timelessness and reverence
for the written word. A wealth of books rests within the old cabinets,
some small and plain others large and elaborate. A musty smell
lingers within the room. On one side of the is a desk holding
a computer and various other twentieth century gadgets, contrasting
strikingly to the entire mood and architecture of the room. It
is here that Fordham Library holds all of its manuscripts and
rare or valuable books. In addition to this, the Library carries
scores of facsimiles.
- The majority of Medieval manuscripts that the Library possesses
are Deeds. There are twenty eight documents in total, twenty
of which are in German, four in French, three in Latin, and one
in Dutch. All of the Latin deeds and one of the French pertain
to English matters. The majority of the deeds are from the late
- There are twenty eight documents on vellum that relate to
the Augustinian Brotherhood at Gemund, thirteen of which
are deeds. These twenty eight documents on vellum were acquired
by the Library in 1935 from the Anderson Galleries and later examined
by the Library of Congress.
- There is one piece documenting a business transaction of the
Bishop of Westpahlia dating from between 1218 and 1226. The seal
of the bishop remains attached to the parchment manuscript.
The Special collections Room also has a few Medieval
- Most impressive of these is a tiny book of prayers in Latin.
It is about five inches in length and three across, made up of
delicate, vellum pages are bound in leather. Within its pages
are detailed calligraphy and exquisite illustrations.
- There is also a Late Medieval codex in Latin containing the
writings of Cicero.
- Fragments from Medieval codices can also be found, such as
eight leaves in parchment from a Sixteenth Century Latin legal
manuscript and leaves from the Psalter of Our Lady , a Fifteenth
Century Italian manuscript.
Locked away in the highest tower of Duane Library
, as if a beautiful princess in a fairy tale, is the library's
collection of facsimiles. It possesses reproductions of numerous
Medieval manuscripts as well as books on paleography.
- There, a complete facsimile of the Domesday Book can
- It also contains a reproduction of Codice Rico a thirteenth
century collection of Spanish poems.
- The most famous of Celtic Medieval manuscripts are represented
by facsimile, including the Book of Kells, the Book
of Durrow, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Book
of Armagh .
- In addition to this is the Lorsch Gospel. "Des Actes
Originaux des Souverains Carolingians", a two volume work
containing facsimiles of Carolingian manuscripts is also found
in the Tower Room.
- The library has facsimiles on microfilm as well. Most
extensive of these is the Barberini Collection. This collection
is found in the Vatican Library. The portion owned by Fordham
consists of 10, 000 Latin codices.
- Another extensive collection can be found of Late Medieval
English printed books. In its Manuscripta Collection, the library
has on microfilm rare an out-of-print books produced at St. Louis
University. Reference and source materials on Medieval and Renaissance
poetry, philosophy and theology of the Middle Ages , and incunabula
of works in the vernacular are contained within this collection.
The New Library
Fordham University is currently in the process of
moving all of its materials to a recently completed library. All
of the above mentioned materials will be moved from Duane Library
into this new one. The Library plans to acquire more manuscripts
and facsimiles. It also hopes to, with the use of the most modern
technological tools, allow its students and faculty members greater
access to desired materials. The musty, old books will be taken
from their fitting home in the Gothic Duane Library and brought
into the new library, into the twenty-first century.
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