Pepperdine Libraries Acquires Rare 15th- and 16th-Century Manuscripts

Over the summer, Pepperdine Libraries enhanced its rare and special holdings with the purchase of a pair of centuries-old manuscripts. The oldest of the two acquisitions is a breviary, a liturgical prayer book, that dates to 1475-1500. The other is a choir book from 1572 (with additions in 1662 and 1798). They were purchased from Les Enluminures, a leading dealer in original text manuscripts. The texts are housed in the Boone Special Collections and Archives within Payson Library on the Malibu Campus.

Prior to the purchase of the two manuscripts, Pepperdine did not own any codices (the term for handwritten books) from the medieval or Renaissance periods — despite the overwhelming interest from faculty and students. The enthusiasm for these types of books became clear in 2017 when the Libraries hosted a semester-long loan of medieval manuscripts through the Manuscripts in the Curriculum program sponsored by Les Enluminures. The program allowed students to work closely with original material under the guidance of a professor, and the Libraries also hosted several public programs with experts presenting on the borrowed objects. 

The widespread participation and excitement across several academic areas demonstrated the importance of filling this gap in the collection. After the Manuscripts and the Curriculum program, many professors began regularly asking if the Libraries would be able to acquire a full codex. In May 2019, after careful research and consideration, members of the Libraries leadership team purchased the breviary and choir book from Les Enluminures.

“The aspects of these particular manuscripts correlate to a variety of teaching and learning goals at Pepperdine. We are excited to offer students in literature, history, religion, music, international studies and languages, and art history classes a unique learning experience,” said Melissa Nykanen, associate university librarian for Special Collections and University Archives. “Those from the Pepperdine community with more specialized research agendas will also find the manuscripts an indispensable resource,” she added.

With the new acquisition, Nykanen indicated that there were “countless” opportunities for scholarly research, including topics such as:

  • the history of book manuscript production
  • book binding practices
  • the development of language and writing
  • church history
  • music performance practices
  • worship traditions
  • liturgical styles
  • European history
  • women’s studies
  • material culture of the 15th and 16th century
  • artistic styles and techniques
  • medieval and Renaissance art traditions

“With the addition of these two codices to our collection, Pepperdine Libraries further reinforces its position as a laboratory for the humanities,” said Mark Roosa, dean of Pepperdine Libraries. “I’m delighted that faculty members are now able to teach manuscript concepts with centuries-old objects,” he added.


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Pepperdine Libraries Acquires Rare 15th- and 16th-Century Manuscripts