Saskatchewan’s Athol Murray College of Notre Dame is home to some of the rarest, centuries-old books that rarely could be found anywhere else. The college is already known for its impressive hockey program, but few people knew about its vast collection of precious books.
The college’s namesake, Father Athol Murray, has gathered all of these books during his travels across Canada.
Former archivist Gerry Scheibel looked after these books because during his time at the college. He described the collection as “amazing”:
“Father Murray always had a great, great love for books and especially old books. Some of our early books were written on goatskin in the 1200s and early 1300s, before the printing press. They’re called parchment books and they’re handwritten.”
Among its many books, Athol Murray College of Notre Dame also houses German bibles printed by Martin Luther and Neurenberg Chronicle made in 1493, one of the first books that went through the printing press.
“There are 2,000 woodcuts in the book. What they had to do at that time, they had to carve pictures out of wood because that was the only way they could print them.”
Scheibel says that college goes through lots of effort to preserve these ancient books:
“So far, we’ve had good luck. The humidity has to [be] right. Otherwise, it will curl the pages. And if it gets too dry, it will dry the pages out, and they crack and shred.”
For now, the rare book collection is not open to the public, but once the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, readers will be able to access them once again.