Detail from Compendium Theologicae Veritatis. Photo: Martin Dee.

Detail from Compendium Theologicae Veritatis. Photo: Martin Dee.

UBC Library’s Fall Update in the BCLA Browser features a number of highlights, including the conclusion of University Librarian Ingrid Parent’s IFLA presidency; the recent acquisition of the Library’s oldest book; the launch of UBC’s first local open online course (LOOC); and more. 

The BCLA Browser is the online, open access publication of the British Columbia Library Association. 



A page from Compendium Theologicae Veritatis


Call it a textbook for the ages.

Aided by the expertise of a UBC instructor who specializes in early European medieval history, UBC Library recently acquired a manuscript whose scholarly impact stretches across the centuries.

The main piece in the gorgeous bound text – which originates in France and was copied sometime in the 14th century, possibly during the time of the Black Death pandemic – is called the Compendium Theologicae Veritatis (or Compendium of Theological Truth). This work, an introduction of sorts to theology and the oldest book in UBC Library’s collections, was a highly popular tome for university students more than 700 years ago.

In 2013, it’s set to be a vital classroom text once again – this time for UBC history students enrolled in Richard Pollard’s undergraduate classes spanning the early, central and late Middle Ages. That’s because Pollard, a Post-Doctoral Fellow in UBC’s Department of History, plans to use the text as a valuable teaching tool in those courses. “There’s all kinds of things that students can learn just by looking at this book,” says Pollard, who advised the Library on the purchase of the medieval manuscript. “It brings students into the period in a way that lecturing in a classroom doesn’t. It allows an entry to somebody’s mind from the past.”

Indeed, the text is cross-disciplinary in its appeal, touching on aspects of history, art history, English, the classics and religious studies. Pollard notes that the manuscript is also useful for graduate students learning paleography – or the study of script (the Library’s copy is written in script known as Gothic or textualis, which originated in the 12th century).

UBC Library acquired the manuscript earlier this year from an antiquarian bookseller in London, England; it’s housed at Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), located on level one of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. While it’s the first of its kind in the Library’s collection, it’s likely not the last. “In the coming years, we hope to build a teaching collection of medieval manuscripts,” aided by the input of faculty members from UBC’s English and History departments, says Katherine Kalsbeek, RBSC Literature Librarian.

The bound publication, which is colour-coded for ease of use, also contains a secondary work – likely an extract from Thomas Aquinas, the philosopher and theologian. It’s about 400 pages in length, and its pages are made from parchment, a highly durable material. “This book has survived for 700 years, and it will survive for another 700 years quite happily,” notes Pollard.

Stay tuned for news of a special exhibition featuring the medieval manuscript, set to take place in January 2014.



a place of mind, The University of British Columbia

UBC Library





Emergency Procedures | Accessibility | Contact UBC | © Copyright The University of British Columbia

Spam prevention powered by Akismet