Do rare books excite you? Spend some time in Milner Library’s special collections and rare books room this summer. 

Browse our newest acquisition—Tabula super libros de civitate Dei [roughly translated as a Guide to the City of God], a companion manuscript to Augustine of Hippo’s City of God. Augustine’s work is considered a cornerstone of western thought. Written in the early fifth century, City of God explores significant theological questions such as the existence of evil. Augustine wrote his treatise as a response to criticism that Christianity was leading to the decline of Roman civilization. Milner Library’s Head of Special Collections and Rare Books Maureen Brunsdale said, “Augustine’s City of God is one of the most complex and thought provoking works that I have ever read. It changed my thinking about the world.”

text within a book
Tabula super libros de civitate Dei

Our companion manuscript is not a copy of Augustine’s City of God itself but rather an index and notes on the treatise. The notes are attributed to the Archbishop of Canterbury. This 15th century manuscript is a folio, a series of individual leaves of paper or parchment bound together like a journal. The manuscript was most likely produced by a scribe, a person employed to specifically write or copy in ink before the invention of printing. The scribe was most likely associated with a charterhouse, or religious order, in what is today modern Austria.

This work is written in ink on vellum, a type of specially prepared animal skin, probably calf skin, that was commonly used at the time for parchment. Note the elaborate styling and vivid coloring, which is prominent at the beginning of new sections. Did you know that red pigments, including ink, was commonly made by crushing a species of insect that lived on oak trees around the Mediterranean?

Come see this manuscript and our other titles in the rare and fine collection in our special collections and rare books room. Located on the top floor of Milner Library, the special collections and rare books room is open 9 a.m.-noon and 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday this summer. Library staff Maureen Brunsdale, Rebecca Fitzsimmons, and Mark Schmitt are happy to work with you. Walk-in visitors are welcome, but calling ahead for an appointment is encouraged.