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Photo credit: Everyday Health Photo of Hernandez (dressed in all black) at The Watcha! Film Series in honor of Women’s History Month.

OLLU library unveils 600-year-old codex book

  SAN ANTONIO- At Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU), an original copy of an ancient codex book that dates to the year 1450 and originates from France, is currently being held at the Sueltenfuss library. 

  Rare books are defined as books that were printed or produced before the year 1801. Students and faculty at OLLU can connect and touch history by physically holding a rare book published 600 years ago. 

  Along with this 600-year-old codex, there are several other original copies of rare books dating from the 1600s to the 1700s. They are all part of the special collections on the third floor of the Sueltenfuss library. 

  “The book is an illuminated manuscript, which means that it is hand printed with mostly gold-leaf paint,” said Jason Bourgeois, Ph.D., Cataloging and Special Collections Librarian at the Sueltenfuss library. “It is printed on vellum, which means that the pages are made from calfskin instead of paper.”

  Illuminated manuscripts were hand-made books with context about Christian scripture or practice; these books were normally produced in Western Europe between the centuries of 500 and 1600. Gold and silver illuminate the text and accompanying illustrations, which is why these books are specifically referred to as illuminated. Their production gradually died out after the invention of the printing press.  

“The book has been titled ‘the Book of Hours,’ it has three full color pages, and it is filled with psalms and prayers for the various hours throughout the day, hence why it is called ‘the Book of Hours’,” said Dr. Bourgeois.  

Dr. Bourgeois said that the language inside the book is written in two dialects, French and Latin. The judgment was made based on a specific page inside the book titled the ‘Calendar of Saints.’ The conclusion was reached that the book was produced in northern France in the city of Rouen.  

“We know that it was purchased in 1931, in France, by a woman who is believed to be the wife of a previous board member of OLLU,” said Dr. Bourgeois. “She donated the book, along with several other rare books to the Lake in 1950.”   

The book has not received much attention because it was not until recently that the Sueltenfuss library had input it into their catalog system, which Dr. Bourgeois said is linked to a digital forum called WorldCat. This forum integrates all existing university catalogs in the world with each other. Now that ‘The Book of Hours’ is cataloged, anyone with access to WorldCat can find it.  

‘The Book of Hours’ cannot be checked out to the OLLU community. Still, Dr. Bourgeois said the OLLU Sueltenfuss library encourages students, faculty and classes to come and view it and the other rare books within the special collections.  

If a student or faculty member is interested in getting an inside look at these rare books, they can go to the OLLU Sueltenfuss library or schedule an appointment with Dr. Bourgeois on the Library Staff page at  
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