Missouri State University
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Missouri State University Libraries

Medieval Manuscript and
Early Printing Collection

Collection Number: M048
Volume: 25 items
Dates: 1300-1610 (with some modern facsimiles)

This collection has been digitized in its entirety and is available online in our Digital Collections.


It is unknown when this collection was received. It was processed in 2009 by Jessica Bennett.


This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States of America. (Title 17, United States Code).


The collection is unrestricted. Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. Permission to publish material from the collection must be obtained from the Department of Special Collections and Archives. Citations should be as follows: Identification of the item, Medieval Manuscript and Early Printing Collection [M048], Department of Special Collections and Archives, Missouri State University.

Biographical/Historical Sketch

This is a collection of materials illustrating the history of books. The practice of cutting manuscript pages, whether for profit or for pleasure, has been around for centuries. In medieval times, scribes and book owners would cut out illuminations only, ignoring the text, and reuse the pieces to ornament other books. From the seventeenth through early nineteenth centuries, libraries would give illustrated initials away as souvenirs to important guests and patrons.

The practice of breaking apart whole books in order to sell the individual pages flourished in Europe during the 1960s and 1970s. With the post World War II economic struggles, private libraries found that they could greatly increase their profit by selling individual manuscript pages. University libraries and private libraries in the United States purchased the bulk of these pages and were thrilled to own examples of authentic medieval manuscripts.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of 25 manuscript pages from 1300 to 1610. Also included in the collection are facsimile pages, which are clearly labeled on the folders and container list. The folders are arranged chronologically, with some folders containing additional information about the specific pages.

Among the highlights of the collection are four pages from Books of Hours spanning 1425 to 1525. Books of Hours are either a book or primer for use in private devotions. The central text, the Little Office of the Blessed Virgin, is modeled on the Divine Office and represents a shorter version of the devotions performed at the eight canonical hours. Books of Hours are nearly always illuminated, and the quality and quantity of the illuminations was in direct proportion to the patron's budget. Popular subjects for the illuminations include scenes from the life of the Virgin, Christ, and King David; depictions of the saints; and themes relating to death and judgment. Occasionally the patron was portrayed, as well as decorative letters and figures.

The collection also includes woodblock prints, early printed pages and a map engraving. For more detailed information of some of the pages see the Manuscript Pages Case File for the text used in a Rare Books exhibit, 2009.

Container List

The container list for this collection is available in PDF format. Adobe Reader is required to view the container list.

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