For almost 70 years Dialogues et Chants Royaux has been out of sight, and its whereabouts during these years remain a mystery.
But at Storer Auditorium, the 16th-century French manuscript was welcomed to the University of Miami on Thursday as the three millionth book to be added to the library.
More than 120 people listened as President Donna E. Shalala, Provost Thomas LeBlanc and University Librarian William Walker explained the vital role that university libraries must play as UM continues to ascend the university ranks.
“The most important buildings on our campuses are our libraries,” said Shalala. She explained that libraries can be an effective recruiting tool, which is one reason UM will continue “upgrading and expanding our collection.”
The hand-crafted book contains a collection of religious poems written in honor of the Virgin Mary, explained Perri Lee Roberts, a professor of art history and senior associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.
The book is vibrantly colored and ornately decorated with four full-page paintings depicting Jesus and the Virgin Mary. The last known owner of the French piece was William Randolph Hearst, a millionaire newspaper tycoon, who sold it in 1940.
Eric White, curator of special collections at the Bridwell Library at SMU, described the manuscript as “a beautiful book of lasting significance.”
White said he is “pleased [the book] is now in this institution to be seen and studied.”
The book was purchased three months ago, but university officials were unwilling to say at what price.
The exact location of the book was not disclosed. Walker explained only that the book will be kept in a special collections unit where temperature and humidity are constantly monitored and access will be limited.
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UM has six libraries including the Otto G. Richter Library, the Marta and Austin Weeks Music Library, a marine and atmospheric science library, a medical library, a business library and an architecture library.