Older than Dirt?


A few weeks back, The Ranger News posted a poll asking, “How old is the oldest text in the Parkside library?” Well, not to any surprise, many students did not know. So, I ventured down into the often-uncharted territories of our Parkside library’s D2 level and was greeted by the friendly archivist Anna Stadick.

Anna brought me to one of the back rooms in the archive, which contained many valuable texts. She showed me a collection of books by Martin Luther, from the 1700s, and they had an odd binding, which was made from calf flesh. Another popular text was a piece of propaganda, pre-WW2, that contains rare pictures of Adolf Hitler, kissing babies and presenting himself in a humble manner.

Though these texts were compelling, the motive of my venture rests in the library’s oldest text. Upon chatting with Anna, she directed me to a glass case (the same case that Martin Luther’s texts are contained), and brought out an old book–a book written in Old English. Its maroon cover was not the original, and some of pages were missing, but the 1638 text was impressively well kept. Written by John Gulliam, it is titled A Display of Heraldie and is a study of shields. Ironically, it is the oldest text in our library, but it is the third edition of the book.

The text is truly in fantastic condition; Anna described how the paper, from the time period, was created in a high quality manner. Compared to the Hitler text, circa the 1930s, which was mass published with low quality paper, this ancient paper is still very pliable and readable nonetheless. Some of the ancient texts are highly acidic and need specific keeping, but Gulliam’s book is safe as long as it is kept in the slightly cooled archive.

The story of the text itself is interesting too. A Display of Heraldie was published in London but eventually wound up in our library. I asked Anna about how this book arrived here, but she said that when she came across the book in 2008, no records had been kept. However, we can derive from notes and page replacements that a previous owner tended to the book. But still, Gulliam’s text remains a mystery.

Though it is the oldest, A Display of Heraldie is merely a glimpse into the UWP archival wonders––compelling in the sense of a grandfather’s attic, yet an undeniable bridge between the past and present. For more information on the archives, visit their website: http://www.uwp.edu/departments/library/archives/

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