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News of a wonderful find at the University of Reading Special Collections.  While cataloguing a collection of fragments, Special Collections librarian Erika Delbecque spotted something exciting …  a leaf from the Sarum Ordinal printed by William Caxton in 1476 or 1477 – the only copy of this part of the book known to survive!

The leaf had been used as ‘binder’s waste’, re-cycled for padding a spine in a bookbinding.  Circa 1820 it was rescued and kept in a collection of other fragments.  The University acquired the leaf in 1997 when it purchased the collection of typographer John Lewis (thanks to Heritage Lottery funding).

The Caxton leaf will be on show at the University of Reading until 30 May 2017.

This story shows the value of high quality cataloguing and of rare books expertise in identifying and making use of university assets. We see too how such ‘hidden treasure’ stories appeal to people’s imaginations; there has been considerable press and social media coverage of this lovely story.  I wonder what other treasures of early printing still remain to be found in hidden collections, concealed in bookbindings or unidentified in albums of manuscript fragments.

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