Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Off to the 'Zoo (Kalamazoo, that is!)

Every May, medievalists gather for the big Medieval Congress at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. It is an academic conference, primarily, and I always love to go, since I have a lot of friends I sometimes only get to see at Kalamazoo.

A small charter from 1210
In recent years, I've also set up a booth in the book room, where I've tried to offer a selection of medieval materials of interest to individuals and sometimes even institutions trying to build or strengthen their teaching collections. 

It's a lot of fun, trying to find good homes for wonderful items, and for me at least, it's always been a great thrill to own medieval materials. I have always been fascinated with old books and manuscripts--all old things, really--and there is no substitute for holding something in your hands, and even owning it, to help you learn about it and learn from it.

It also makes me feel personally involved in helping to pass these things along to future generations: and it's something anyone can do. It's a reminder that we are all, always, in a position to help transmit our cultural treasures to the future: this is not work for libraries and museums only. 

Of course, some medieval manuscripts are very expensive, but there are many college textbooks that cost more these days than some medieval manuscript or printed incunabula fragments. It's an interesting statement about how academics (and others) value books, both old and new. 

My image here shows one item that I'll be taking to Kalamazoo, a new acquisition, it is a cute little charter from France, written in 1210. I think it's the oldest charter I've been fortunate to have, and while I'd love to find a good home for it, I certainly wouldn't mind hanging onto it for a while myself, either.

If any of my readers out there are medievalists going to Kalamazoo, I very much hope you'll stop by my booth in the book room!

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