The basement of Love Library houses centuries-old manuscripts, books and records in vaults and climate-controlled rooms. The archives include versions of works by Martin Luther, Capt. John Smith, William Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I.
Some of these rare and important documents will be on display during a reception Dec. 15, at the end of a fundraising campaign supporting the library’s Archives and Special Collections and the Medieval and Renaissance Studies program at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The fundraiser, For the Love of Books: A Celebration of Premodern Treasures in UNL Special Collections, Honoring the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, opens Nov. 28 and invites supporters to adopt a book published during the Medieval or Renaissance period. The campaign runs through Dec. 15 and will conclude with a celebration reception for donors from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Dec. 15 in the Archives and Special Collections reading room (29 Love Library). Many of the items up for adoption will be on display.
Carole Levin, director of the Medieval and Renaissance program and Willa Cather Professor of History, said the fundraiser is important to support the program’s students and to keep the materials in the best shape possible. Funds will also be used for conservation of library materials in need of repair.
Of the items up for honorary adoption, John Foxe’s “Book of Martyrs” is one of the most important, Levin said.
Foxe’s work is a history of many who died for religious beliefs and was published five times from 1563 to 1589 during the reign of Elizabeth I, Levin said. The work directly influenced Shakespeare, who included scenes from the book in his plays. “Book of Martyrs,” also known as “Acts and Monuments,” is a multi-volume set with the third volume in need of repair.
Students researched and wrote the historical and material descriptions for books that will be up for adoption. The assignment also introduced students to works that will support their own scholarship.
Instructions for the honorary adoption process can be found here. Items listed for adoption range from $25 to $1,000 and include manuscripts and books created in the 15th to mid-19th century by Jonathan Swift, King James VI and I of England, Ovid, Dante Alighieri, Sir Walter Raleigh and more. Donations will be acknowledged with a certificate in the name of the adopter or any honoree.
Andrea Nichols, a graduate student working on her doctorate in early modern English history, said she was impressed by the hundreds of medieval and Renaissance materials housed in Archives and Special Collections.
“There is a good foundation here for learning about the condition and composition of the items I examined in my dissertation, enabling me to be better prepared for more time-constrained trips to major archives in America and in England,” Nichols said. “There are even books here that have the reader marks I’m researching.”
The Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program is partnering with the Archives and Special Collections, University Libraries and the University of Nebraska Foundation on the campaign.