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Special Collections and Rare Book Department: Medieval and Early Modern Collections

Outlines major collections, provides links to finding aids and describes services of the Special Collections and Rare Book Department at Western Michigan University.

Medieval Studies at WMU

Illuminated thirteenth century manuscript page with musical notations

Illuminated thirteenth century missal leaf, France (WMU MS 108)

Medieval and Early Modern Collections: Introduction


The Special Collections and Rare Book Department has substantial holdings for Medieval Studies.  These include medieval manuscripts (both codices and documents), facsimiles of manuscripts (of various types) and secondary works (including reference works, monographs and working papers of medievalists).  The original manuscripts and facsimiles are primarily focused on medieval Europe and cover a wide range of topics. All of these materials are included in the on-line catalog, but some additional resources have been developed for teaching and research. 

Facsimile of a mid-fifteenth century handbook for health produced in the Rhineland. A Latin text translated from an Arabic treatise by eleventh century physician, Ibn Butlan of Baghdad  (BnF MS Lat. Ms. Lat. 9333, Paris)

We strive to provide our manuscript collection in digitized form and the collection in progress is available at Digitized Medieval Manuscripts.  This resource includes both manuscripts owned by WMU and some materials which were on loan here, but are now held at Gethsemani Abbey in Trappist, KY.

Early Modern

The department also holds a large body of sources for the study of the Early Modern Period of European history: manuscripts, incunabula, Hand Press Period books, facsimiles and secondary sources. Subjects include (but are not limited to) religious commentaries and sermons, theology, philosophy, poetry, fiction, travel accounts, natural science, medicine, law, studies of dress/costume. Records for all of these materials are searchable in the online catalog.

Volvelle in Della Fabrica et Uso di Diversi Stromenti di Astronomia et Cosmografia... Venice, printed by Ruberto Meietti, 1598, held in WMU Special Collections.

Scholarly Papers, Correspondence and other Archival Collections

The scholarly papers of medievalists can provide insight into their work and methods as well as allow scholars to find out about unpublished research which will further current projects.  WMU Special Collections has several small sets of working papers of medievalists: some are listed below and some are associated with our Cistercian Collections.  Some collections remain uncataloged and will be added as they become available for consultation.