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Medieval Manuscripts at Fordham

By Jennifer Owens

Entering Fordham University's Duane Library Special Collections Room is like taking a step back in history. Cradled by two Gothic arches , the tiny room emits an aura of timelessness and reverence for the written word. A wealth of books rests within the old cabinets, some small and plain others large and elaborate. A musty smell lingers within the room. On one side of the is a desk holding a computer and various other twentieth century gadgets, contrasting strikingly to the entire mood and architecture of the room. It is here that Fordham Library holds all of its manuscripts and rare or valuable books. In addition to this, the Library carries scores of facsimiles.


  • The majority of Medieval manuscripts that the Library possesses are Deeds. There are twenty eight documents in total, twenty of which are in German, four in French, three in Latin, and one in Dutch. All of the Latin deeds and one of the French pertain to English matters. The majority of the deeds are from the late fourteenth century.
  • There are twenty eight documents on vellum that relate to the Augustinian Brotherhood at Gemund, thirteen of which are deeds. These twenty eight documents on vellum were acquired by the Library in 1935 from the Anderson Galleries and later examined by the Library of Congress.
  • There is one piece documenting a business transaction of the Bishop of Westpahlia dating from between 1218 and 1226. The seal of the bishop remains attached to the parchment manuscript.


The Special collections Room also has a few Medieval codices.

  • Most impressive of these is a tiny book of prayers in Latin. It is about five inches in length and three across, made up of delicate, vellum pages are bound in leather. Within its pages are detailed calligraphy and exquisite illustrations.
  • There is also a Late Medieval codex in Latin containing the writings of Cicero.
  • Fragments from Medieval codices can also be found, such as eight leaves in parchment from a Sixteenth Century Latin legal manuscript and leaves from the Psalter of Our Lady , a Fifteenth Century Italian manuscript.


Locked away in the highest tower of Duane Library , as if a beautiful princess in a fairy tale, is the library's collection of facsimiles. It possesses reproductions of numerous Medieval manuscripts as well as books on paleography.

  • There, a complete facsimile of the Domesday Book can be found.
  • It also contains a reproduction of Codice Rico a thirteenth century collection of Spanish poems.
  • The most famous of Celtic Medieval manuscripts are represented by facsimile, including the Book of Kells, the Book of Durrow, the Lindisfarne Gospels, and the Book of Armagh .
  • In addition to this is the Lorsch Gospel. "Des Actes Originaux des Souverains Carolingians", a two volume work containing facsimiles of Carolingian manuscripts is also found in the Tower Room.
  • The library has facsimiles on microfilm as well. Most extensive of these is the Barberini Collection. This collection is found in the Vatican Library. The portion owned by Fordham consists of 10, 000 Latin codices.
  • Another extensive collection can be found of Late Medieval English printed books. In its Manuscripta Collection, the library has on microfilm rare an out-of-print books produced at St. Louis University. Reference and source materials on Medieval and Renaissance poetry, philosophy and theology of the Middle Ages , and incunabula of works in the vernacular are contained within this collection.


The New Library

Fordham University is currently in the process of moving all of its materials to a recently completed library. All of the above mentioned materials will be moved from Duane Library into this new one. The Library plans to acquire more manuscripts and facsimiles. It also hopes to, with the use of the most modern technological tools, allow its students and faculty members greater access to desired materials. The musty, old books will be taken from their fitting home in the Gothic Duane Library and brought into the new library, into the twenty-first century.

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The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is located at the History Department of  Fordham University, New York. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook, and other medieval components of the project, are located at the Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies.The IHSP recognizes the contribution of Fordham University, the Fordham University History Department, and the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies in providing web space and server support for the project. The IHSP is a project independent of Fordham University.  Although the IHSP seeks to follow all applicable copyright law, Fordham University is not the institutional owner, and is not liable as the result of any legal action.

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