Katherine Kalsbeek and Richard Pollard admire the Papal bull acquired by UBC Library. Credit: Don Erhardt
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.
Detail of the leaden seal, referred to as the “bull”; it features images of St. Paul and St. Peter. Credit: Don Erhardt
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.”
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)
- CTV News, “UBC library obtains 770-year-old Medieval religious document,” (Feb. 4)
- Brampton Guardian, “UBC unveils newly acquired 770-year-old document,” (Feb. 4)
- The Province, “Medieval religious document from 1245 added to UBC library collection,” (Feb. 4)
- Toronto Sun, “UBC gets 770-year-old medieval papal decree,” (Feb. 4)
- Toronto Star (Video), “UBC unveils religious document issued by Pope in 1245,” (Feb. 4)
- Globe and Mail (Video), “UBC unveils religious document issued by Pope in 1245,” (Feb. 4)
- Vernon Morning Star, “UBC unveils newly acquired 770-year-old document,” (Feb. 4)
- GlobalNews BC (Video), “UBC unveils newly acquired 770-year-old document,” (Feb. 4)
- Vancouver Sun, “Medieval religious document from 1245 added to UBC library collection,” (Feb. 4)
- Huffington Post (BC), “UBC Library Obtains Medieval Religious Document From 1245,” (Feb. 4)