An estate sale buyer in Maine was looking for bargains. A 700-year-old find was found by a bargain hunter.
Will Sideri found a frame document on a wall instead of an appliance for the kitchen. The document had extensive Latin script, musical notes, and gold embellishments. It was stamped with the date 1285 AD. Based on what he’d seen in a manuscripts class at Colby College, the document looked downright medieval.
It was also a steal at just $75
The parchment, which was dated to late 13th-century France by academics, came from The Beauvais missal. It was used at Beauvais Cathedral, France. According to them, it was used for Roman Catholic worship around 700 years ago.
A manuscript expert said that the Maine Monitor’s first report on the document could be worth up to $10,000.
After spying the unusual manuscript, Sideri contacted his former Colby College professor, who was familiar with it because there’s another page in the college collection. The professor reached out to another academic who’d researched the document. Both confirmed its authenticity quickly.
The parchment was part of a prayer book and priests’ liturgy, said Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America and a professor of manuscript studies at Simmons University in Boston.
The full missal was once owned by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper publisher, before being sold in the 1940s and, much to the consternation of today’s academics, was divvied up into individual pages, she said.
This practice was widespread in the 20th century. “Thousands of unique manuscripts were destroyed and scattered this way,” Davis said.
Davis has painstakingly researched The Beauvais Missal, and has tracked down more than 100 individual pages across the country. The original missal contained 309 pages.
Scholars will be particularly interested in the Sideri page.
It’s a treasure both because of its age and condition, which is far better than the other page in the Colby collection, said Megan Cook, Sideri’s former professor, who teaches medieval literature at Colby.
Davis estimates that the parchment’s value is upwards of $10,000. Sideri, however, stated that the parchment is not for sale.
He said he likes the history and beauty of the parchment — and the story of how he stumbled upon it.
“This is something at the end of the day that I know is cool,”He stated. “I didn’t buy this expecting to sell it.”
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