Treasures of the
Seminary Library When I became director of the Monsignor James C. Turro Seminary Library in 2004, I set about improving my knowledge of our collection of more than 70,000 works. I also began to explore our archival material and rare books — works rarely seen by visitors, students or even the faculty. In the process of that exploration, I came upon a number of rare holdings now on display for the public. I share a few of my favorites here. | FAT H E R L AW R E N C E B. P O R T E R
First Century Roman Nails
An Illuminated Manuscript
These nails were discovered in 1961 by Professor Ian Richmond of Oxford University’s Archeology Department while excavating the ruins of a first-century Roman fortress on the banks of the river Tay near the Scottish town of Dunkeld. Handmade by Roman metal workers, the nails were standard issue for engineers accompanying the Roman army, who used them to build forts and bridges. No doubt they are very similar, if not identical to, the nails used by Roman soldiers to crucify Jesus of Nazareth.
This choir book, of late-Renaissance style, was made in Florence about the year 1590 for a community of Dominican friars. The page features the antiphon (or opening song refrain) for the Feast of the Guardian Angels. Its hand-painted decorative initial letter portrays a drama appropriate to the holy day: an infant is shown with a threatening devil on one side and a protecting angel on the other, an illustration no doubt inspired by the Gospel according to Matthew 18:10, where Jesus says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I tell you that in heaven their angels always behold the face of my Father.”