Most students, faculty and staff who visit Blakley Library's periodicals section don't realize that, as they browse through journals or visit with librarians, they are just a floor away from what might be considered the crown jewels of UD's rare book collection — two 16th century Catholic choir books, a cantorella and an antiphonal— donated 28 years ago by a Baptist minister from Oklahoma.
Both books, containing the text of hymns and chants for use in Mass, consist of vellum (animal skin) pages and oak board covers bound together by leather. Although they have sustained fire and water damage, they are complete manuscripts, a rare feat for 500-year-old books. The antiphonal, at 2-by-3 feet, is large enough for an entire choir to read from during Mass.
"The cantorella, which is only slightly smaller, is hand-illuminated with gold leaf on multiple pages," says Nettie Baker, associate director of Blakley Library.
In addition to the rare books collection, UD possesses a number of special collections, totaling 6,310 volumes. The collections include Associate Professor Emeritus of Biology Warren Pulich's ornithology books, a collection of Irish literature donated by Javan Kienzle, a friend of Emeritus Professor of History John Sommerfeldt, 680 Texas-themed volumes and books from the personal libraries of Wilmoore Kendall, founder of the Politics Department, and University Professor Louise Cowan. The library is also home to 655 limited editions, ranging from Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness" to the Indian epic "Bhagavad-Gita."
"The limited editions are displayed in glass cases in the library's main floor. A few of them are autographed, but they are all notable for their beautiful binding, typography and illustrations," says Carolyn Mauzy, reference librarian.
Faculty, staff and students who would like to see the limited editions, special collections or rare books should contact a reference librarian for further information.
PHOTO: (50 Years of Vision & Courage) Baker looks through the antiphonal shortly after it was received.