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Rare Books Revealed: Hatchet Article Sheds Light on Origins of Some of Gelman’s Oldest Books

A page from the Polyglot Psalter (1516) housed in Special Collections.Did you know that Special Collections has books that are more than 500 years old? While some of these treasures have been purchased or donated in recent years, others have been in the library for a very, very long time and the story of how they came to be here is unclear.

Recently, we found a Hatchet article that sheds some light on the origins of some of our oldest books. The October 29, 1930 article, titled “G.W. University Library Houses a Rare Collection,” describes how the Baptist clergymen who founded GW (then known as Columbian College) donated rare religious books after the school opened in 1821, forming the nucleus of our present-day library collections.

There are three specific books described in the article: the “Polyglot Psalter,” a 1516 triumph of printing and scholarship printed in multiple languages, containing one of the earliest descriptions of Christopher Columbus; a 1519 edition of the works of Claudius; and a 1543 first edition of a work on Moses by Martin Luther, printed in Wittenberg by Peter Seitz.

The books were printed nearly five hundred years ago and donated nearly two hundred years ago. We’re proud to report that each of these books is still housed in Special Collections today! They reside in our vault, a high security location for our most treasured items, but are available for you to use whether it’s research or curiosity that leads you to them. The university’s founders would no doubt be pleased that, centuries later, their donations are still here benefiting GW’s students and scholars.

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