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Book of Hours and Student Bible

The Library has acquired two outstanding medieval manuscripts, elevating the Library’s rare books collection and significantly contributing to firsthand teaching and learning at the University.

The “student Bible” was made in Oxford, England around 1250 — a time when student Bibles were produced for university students and professors for their daily studies — and is the only one of its kind in a Canadian collection. The “Book of Hours,” a private devotional book from the 15th century, contains remarkable hand-painted illuminations. 

Siân Echard, Head of UBC’s department of English, has already used both texts as teaching and learning tools in her class and notes their importance to hands-on learning. “All of the senses get engaged in a way that just doesn’t happen with a facsimile.”

Book of Hours and Student Bible

Siân Echard, Head of the UBC Department of English, Ingrid Parent, UBC University Librarian, and Dr. Kenneth Fung, contributing donor. Photo Credit: Don Erhardt

These recent acquisitions were purchased at auction in December 2015, thanks to generous donor funds. “Their efforts have enabled UBC Library to enhance its medieval collections for research, learning and enjoyment,” remarks Ingrid Parent, UBC’s university librarian.

Both manuscripts can be viewed in the Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections area of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre or as digitized versions online.

For more information, see the UBC Media Release “Centuries-old medieval manuscripts added to UBC Library collection,” (Mar. 21).

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image of chapman learning commons

Academic university libraries have come a long way since the early days of the card catalogue system, microfiches and rows of book stacks. Driven by advances in technology, and the changing needs of students and faculty, the libraries of today are evolving into community spaces that encourage collaboration, engagement and innovation.

Learn more about UBC Library’s fascinating history in the story “Libraries evolve to keep pace in rapidly changing world of technology” on the UBC News website.

Browse the full photo gallery on the UBC Centennial website.


Papyri scraps rediscovered in UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) are shedding light on life in ancient Egypt.

It’s believed that the small papyrus scraps, which fit in the palm of an adult hand, are the first of their kind in Western Canada. The scraps, written in Greek, date back to Roman-age Egypt, about 1,800 years ago. The pieces are made from the papyrus plant, a reed used to produce the ancient equivalent of paper. Both were excavated in Egypt and made their way to UBC in the 1930s.

“Together, they reveal intimate details of life in Roman Egypt,” said Toph Marshall, a professor at UBC’s department of classical, near eastern and religious studies (CNERS). “These documents are a window on a lost world, revealing the daily activities of ordinary people.”

The pieces have been stored at UBC Library’s  since the 1930s. However, they remained largely unnoticed over the years, until 2014, when a PhD student in classics at UBC approached RBSC for a project. The RBSC librarian brought the papyri scraps to the student’s attention. The student alerted her professor, Tope Marshall- who has since written a paper on the papyri.

The Library has digitized the papyri; and pictures are also available on Flickr


Read the full media release from UBC News: “Window on a lost world”: rediscovered papyri at UBC shed light on ancient Egypt” (July 6).

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UBC’s Okanagan Library and the Okanagan Regional Library are partnering to open a new Innovation Library this September.

The pilot, funded partially by the Irving K. Barber Learning Fund and a private British Columbia-based foundation, will open the Innovation Library within the downtown Kelowna Branch of the Okanagan Regional Library. The library is the result of community consultation with local residents, who asked for the convenience of location paired with access to UBC Library resources, says UBC Okanagan Chief Librarian Heather Berringer.

The space will provide a place for public online research and access to many UBC resources for alumni and community members, as well as students and faculty who may prefer its central location. In addition to the resources, a Community Innovation Librarian will provide in-person support and academic consultations to support students, faculty, alumni and community members. 

“The Innovation Library will benefit UBC Okanagan students engaged in community-based learning and co-operative education placements,” Berringer says. “It is also equipped to support faculty members working on off-campus initiatives including regional socio-economic development projects in and with communities. And it is open for public use.”

The library is expected to open in early September.

For more information, read the news release.

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Discover magazine cover

The June 2000 issue of Discorder magazine

Since 1983, Discorder, the magazine published by CiTR 101.9 FM, has been a unique and trusted voice for the independent music and culture scene in Vancouver.

Digitization of the 30+ year archive of this publication, has now been completed, in a joint effort between UBC Library Digitization Centre and the Student Radio Society of the University of British Columbia.

The Digitization Centre will continue to add to this digital archive as new issues are published. View the archive here.

Read 20 years of Discorder get digitized in the Ubyssey.

staff viewing the document

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.

image of seal

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.”


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