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From the Archives

Jessica J. Boyer, Ph.D.
Director, Phillips Library

One of the earliest items in the Mount St. Mary's University Archives is a handwritten homily dated 1320. The text is written in medieval Latin and is believed to have been written in southern Scotland. While the manuscript is small, measuring only 4.5 inches by 6.25 inches, we can learn much from this 700-year-old document.

manuscript-page-with-watermark_from-the-archives-1.jpgThe document provides information about the medieval church as well as about paper and binding of the time. Holding a light to certain pages of the manuscript reveal the watermark of the paper maker who crafted those sheets. When making the sheets, the paper maker would have laid the wet pulp against a mold that included a raised depiction of his mark. The paper would have been thinner where the mark was made, thus it can be revealed when held to a light today. In the binding, we can also see where someone, likely the author, used scraps of old note paper to bind the paper of the homily before sewing it together into a small pamphlet.

This manuscript was donated to the Mount by Henry E. Olwell, who attended the Mount from 1857-1859 and purchased the document from an antiquarian bookseller in Scotland. We are grateful to Henry Olwell and all the generous alumni who support the Mount.

Photo caption: Detail of manuscript page showing the double-circle watermark in the upper right corner of the page.

Jessica J. Boyer, Ph.D.
Director, Phillips Library