Most of the students, faculty and staff who have visited the periodicals section of the Blakley Library don't realize that as they browsed the journals or visited with librarians, they were just a floor away from the crown jewels of UD's rare book collection—two 16th century Catholic choir books, a cantorella and an antiphonal, donated to UD 28 years ago by a Baptist minister from Oklahoma.
The antiphonal, a 2-by-3 foot book of chants and antiphons, was built large enough for an entire choir to read from it during Mass. Both books have vellum (animal skin) pages and oak board covers bound together by leather. The books are complete—a rare feat for a 500 year-old artifact—but have sustained fire and water damage.
"The cantorella, which is slightly smaller than the antiphonal, is hand-illuminated with gold leaf on multiple pages," said Nettie Baker, associate director of the 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," said Carolyn Mauzy, reference librarian.
Faculty, staff and students who would like to view the limited editions, special collections and 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.