Columbia, SC (WLTX) - Whether it's Shakespeare or Chaucer, most of us had to read literature from centuries ago at one time or another. What if what you're reading, though, isn't just a copy of the work, but the original book from 800 or so years ago?
Through USC's medieval teaching collection, students can touch, read and even hear works of art that were created when the world looked very different.
"We're standing right now in the vault of the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of South Carolina," explains USC English professor and medievalist, Scott Gwara.
It's a place that's not easy to get into, for good reason. Says Gwara, "The vault is where we keep all of our treasures, including the medieval manuscript teaching collection."
"A Book of Hours is a prayer book. The hours are times of day when you recite specific prayers," Gwara says while thumbing through their Book of Hours. It's the University Libraries' latest acquisition, all the way from the late 1400's. "This is the original leather over oak boards that the book was originally bound with at the end of the 15th century. And that is very uncommon," explains Gwara.
It's just a piece of what students here are using to learn about another time. "This is a book of psalms from England in the 15th century. This is made of vellum, which is a processed animal skin. So, if you're in a medieval library, you can actually hear people as they turn the pages," Gwara says.
Elizabeth Sudduth, Rare Books department director shows off another, "A 13th century Bible, a miniature Bible that's quite amazing in and of itself."
It's an experience for students and professional scholars, studying these books. One that sets USC apart. "The opportunity to learn more about the life and times of when these were produced," says Sudduth. Gwara adds, "You can show students, this really is what a book would look like in the medieval world."
Their newest piece, the Book of Hours, will be on display September 22nd and 23rd in the Hollings Special Collections Library on USC's campus.