Written by Joseph
I’m currently studying my Master of Arts degree at the University of Queensland. One of the subjects I’m doing is centered around researching for fiction, and as part of this we took a ‘field trip’ to another building on campus to take some inspiration from the Fryer Library.
UQ has some amazing library facilities, and the Fryer specialises in rare collections. The librarians set out an amazing spread for us, creating themed tables with some unbelievable documents (white cotton gloves on now, people!). There was a table about World War One, about the Australian soldiers landing in europe and setting up camp. There were diaries, official records and someone’s personal photo album, all original douments from World War One. There was a table about Cook and his studies of nature. There was a table about Queensland history, with a lot of meeting minutes which were simultaneously fascinating and incredibly tedious. There was a table about colonisation and aboriginal relations. And so on and so forth.
But for me, the best table by far was the Medieval Literature table. There were recreations of documents, history books about medieval literature… and this:
This is the “Decretales cum apparatu domini Bernardi et lucubrationibus Hieronymi Clarii”. Duh.
This book was printed in 1493 and is a codification of canon lore set by the Pope. 1493. This book is 522 years old and I held it. I turned its crunchy old pages and read it. It was an incredibly surreal experience — I mean many people appreciate that books can be beautiful as objects in their own right, and I think this was the embodiment of that. It’s obviously written in Latin, so I can’t read it. That made it important only because of its age and beauty.
One of the most interesting things I found out about this book is that the actual book text is that little inset rectangle you can see in the middle. All that bulk around it is the notes added after the Pope said this stuff. I guess this was before anyone thought of footnotes or appendices. Also there was handwriting on the front. Handwriting from the middle ages. I swear I swooned.
The trip was amazing and informative, even if I didn’t get much writing done due to the plethora of ephemera.
Thanks for reading.