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Medieval Book Reproductions Donated to UCR

Prized Reproductions of Medieval Books Donated to UCR

An anonymous donor gives a collection of facsimiles and volumes relating to the history of books worth nearly $100,000.

(June 25, 2010)

A page from Enlarge

A page from "The Crusader Bible"

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Nearly two dozen facsimiles of medieval and early printed books, and more than 150 volumes on the history of books or book art have been given to the University of California, Riverside. Donated anonymously by a private collector, the books are worth nearly $100,000.

The facsimiles are nearly exact reproductions of early printed books and of manuscripts drawn, inscribed and copied by hand in the Middle Ages. Among the print facsimiles are the Gutenberg Bible and “Astronomicum Caesareum,” a 17th century book of astronomical reckoning, complete with movable paper wheels (volvelles) used to calculate a planet’s position.

The manuscript facsimiles include: “The Crusader Bible,” a picture Bible thought to have been created at the direction of Louis IX of France in the mid-1240s which, over the years, acquired inscriptions in five languages and three scripts; and four manuscripts of a commentary on the Apocalypse, the biblical Book of Revelation, compiled by the 8th century Spanish monk Beatus, also known as Beato de Liébana. The originals were copied by hand in various monastic communities.

Weighing more than 25 pounds each, the Beatus facsimiles include: “Códice del Monasterio de San Pedro de Cardeña,” which was copied between 1175 and 1185 and includes the Cross of Oviedo, the four evangelists, genealogies, the Revelation and commentary of St. John, and the tables of the Antichrist; “Códice de Fernando I y Doña Sancha,” a full-color facsimile of the manuscript dating from 1047; “Códice de Santo Domingo de Silos,” a full-color facsimile of an illuminated manuscript from Spain, the original of which is in the British Museum; and “Códice del Monasterio de San Andrés de Arroyo.”

Many images in the facsimiles are hand-gilded, and the book bindings are done by hand, said Gwido Zlatkes, reference librarian in Special Collections and Archives of the UCR Libraries.

The original versions of these books, or individual pages of the originals, are in collections of the world’s leading museums and research libraries. “These are as close to the originals as possible,” including flaws such as holes and stitching to repair torn pages in the originals, said Melissa Conway, head of Special Collections and Archives. All of the facsimiles are accompanied by separate volumes of detailed historical, critical and iconographic analyses.

Facsimiles are important to researchers, Conway said, because access to the originals is limited. Scholars typically examine facsimiles first to determine what pages of the original books they need to view directly.

“Some of these books have already been used here by art history and medieval history scholars,” she said of the addition of 23 facsimiles and 158 books about the history of books and book art.

Conway said the previous donation of a collection of working antique printing presses by Dr. Edward C. Petko as well as book-printing classes Zlatkes and library assistant Sara Stilley teach in the library, along with her own work with manuscript classes helped persuade the owners of the collection to donate tomes related to the history of the book.

The donors were also pleased that the facsimiles of manuscripts created in Spain would go to a university with a large number of Latino students, she said.
Melissa Conway and Gwido Zlatkes examine “Códice de Fernando I y Doña Sancha,” a full-color facsimile of the manuscript dating from 1047.<br />

Melissa Conway and Gwido Zlatkes examine “Códice de Fernando I y Doña Sancha,” a full-color facsimile of the manuscript dating from 1047.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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