An extraordinary Papal document that’s nearly 800 years old has become a valuable teaching and research tool at UBC, thanks to a history instructor’s passion and the restoration efforts of UBC Library.
The medieval text, called a Papal bull, was written in 1245. A legal decree issued in Latin by Pope Innocent IV to the Italian convent of San Michele in Trento, it features the signatures of the Pope and 13 cardinals (including future pope Nicholas III). Papal bulls exist elsewhere in Canada, but most are from the 15th century or later, making UBC’s one of the oldest of its kind in Canada.
“UBC has acquired something really exceptional,” says Richard Pollard, an early European specialist and instructor in UBC’s Department of History. “It’s very useful as a representation of medieval documents generally.”
With recommendations from UBC’s English and History departments, the Library acquired the document for approximately $15,000 last May from Bernard Quaritch Ltd., an antiquarian book and manuscript seller in London, England.
The bull, although in good condition, had numerous thick creases, small gaps and tears – the result of being stored in a folded fashion for centuries. Over the course of several weeks, the parchment was painstakingly restored by Anne Lama, the Library’s conservator. She dusted, filled gaps, dried, and eventually flattened the bull using a humidification chamber – meaning users can now read the document without damaging it. “The document is like a patient,” explains Lama. “Restoration is like medicine.”
- To learn more about the Papal bull, see the UBC Media Release, “UBC Library acquires 800-year-old medieval Papal document,” (Jan. 29).
- View photos of the bull on Flickr, or visit the Library’s Digital Collections to see the document up-close.
This story has also appeared in:
- MetroNews Vancouver, “UBC acquires 800-year-old papal document,” (Jan. 29)
- City TV Breakfast Television (Video), “UBC houses ancient document,” (Jan. 29)