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Six of the Most Interesting and Awesome Items in the MSU Rare Books Room [PHOTOS]

Sumerian Clay Tablet from 2400 B.C.
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

You may not know it, but Moffett Library on the campus of Midwestern State University houses an amazing rare books collection. On display is the Nolan A. Moore III Heritage of Print Collection, showcasing how print has changed since its early days. The collection is found on the second floor of the building.

Moore was an avid collector of books, leaves, and items relating to print, and walking through the collection is like taking a step back in time. Visitors are treated to original works such as The Whale, which you may know as Moby Dick, and maps show how the view of the world has changed. Others may be interested to see early printings of Shakespeare or examine what a comic book page looks like prior to being printed. If that’s not your style, newspapers displaying some of the biggest headlines across the globe adorn the walls, such as the sinking of the Titanic or the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The collection is open to the public, though hours are limited. During the spring semester it will be available on Tuesday and Thursday from 2:00pm – 4:00pm, and other times by appointment. Appointments may be made by calling 940-397-4378.

I have been honored to work in this collection for the past few months and have been given access to some truly amazing items. There’s nothing like the feel of centuries-old leather under your fingertips or the smell of a book that was printed long ago. It’s impossible to say which items are the most interesting, but I’ve chosen six that tell a bit of the story in the Nolan Moore Collection.


Sumerian Clay Tablet - 2400 B.C.

 
 

One of the oldest items in the collection, this tiny tablet tells quite a story.

 
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

Illuminated Manuscript - 1420

 
 

This particular leaf comes from a French Book of Hours. The gold coloring you see is burnished gold, which makes the leaf “illuminated.”

 
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

Fifty Shilling Note printed by Benjamin Franklin - May 1, 1760

 
 

Though the note has seen better days, it’s a piece that has lasted the years and shows how much money has changed.

 
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

Comic Book Story Board - 1978

 
 

This story board is the original that went to print. Corrections are visible on the page, and the collection has a copy of the comic book as well, titled “What if – Someone else besides Spiderman has been bitten by the radioactive spider.” This Marvel comic was released in February 1978 and is Vol. 1 No. 7.

 
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

Event Program from Ford’s Theater - April 14, 1865

 
 

The event programs handed out on the night of April 14 did not show that President Lincoln would be in attendance. After he was shot, the theater quickly printed up “souvenir” programs with Lincoln’s name and the date on them. This is one such program.

 
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

The Kelmscott Chaucer – 1896

 
 

William Morris formed the Kelmscott Press, and this work is believed to be his crowning achievement. Considered by some to be the most beautiful book ever printed, only 425 copies were produced. On a personal note, this is my favorite item in the collection.

 
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee
Photo courtesy Bethany Lee

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