Kicking Off the Semester

On January 11, 2017, Brittany Williams and I met with Midwestern State University’s archivist. We soon realized we had this entire assignment handed to us in a single collection. With MSU being a smaller university, the entirety of our rare books section is comprised of a single collection created and owned by Nolan Moore. He traveled the world and most of the United States in search of great works and early evidence of written human communication.

While there were a few leafs from the Gutenberg Bible, the oldest complete book in the collection is the Nuremberg Chronicles, written by Hartmann Schedel and published in 1493 by Anton Koberger. This book was created by a woodcut press. The intricate process that went into producing this beautiful work was my first indication of how important books and records were to the people of this time period. Because the majority of the book is a reconstruction with pictures of the Hebrew Bible and a rough history of the world, it reinforced my preconceived notion that religion dominated the culture of this time period.

Most of the works in the collection were so well preserved that they looked untouched. A small edition of Dante’s Inferno did show a lot of evidence of ownership and marginalia. Most of the pages were annotated in small, cramped ink handwriting that was extremely difficult to read. Because of the amount of writing in the book, I assume it was used for scholastic purposes before Moore collected it.

The collection was donated to MSU by Moore’s family after his death. Nolan Moore and his family were native Wichitans and wanted the collection to go to a smaller liberal arts university. They eventually decided Midwestern State was the best choice. Moore dedicated his life to showing others the significance of human communication and its evolution over time, making that the underlying theme of this collection. From a model of cave drawings and the Rosetta Stone to first editions of comic books, Moore found significance in printed works no matter what their origins or intended and was motivated to share their importance.

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