Bargain hunter notes 700 year old medieval document

Bargain hunter notes 700 year old medieval document

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A bargain hunter who went to a Maine estate sale looking for a KitchenAid mixer, a bookshelf or vintage clothing walked away with a 700-year-old treasure.

Instead of a kitchen appliance, Will Sideris stumbled upon a framed document hanging on a wall. It had elaborate writing in Latin, along with musical notes and gold flourishes. A sticker said 1285 AD. Based on what he had seen in a manuscript class at Colby College, the document looked downright medieval.

And it was a bargain at $75.

Academics confirmed that the parchment was from The Beauvais Missal, used in Beauvais Cathedral in France and dated to the late 13th century. It was used about 700 years ago in Roman Catholic worship, they said.

A handwriting expert said the document, first reported by the Maine Monitor, could be worth as much as $10,000.

After spying the unusual manuscript, Sideri contacted his former professor at Colby College, who was familiar with it because another page is in the college’s collection. The professor contacted another academic who had researched the paper. They quickly confirmed the authenticity.

The parchment was part of a prayer book and liturgy for priests, said Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the Medieval Academy of America and professor of manuscripts at Simmons University in Boston.

The complete dispatch once belonged to William Randolph Hearst, the paper’s publisher, before it was sold in the 1940s and, much to the surprise of today’s academics, was broken up into individual pages, he said.

The practice was common in the early 20th century. “Thousands of unique manuscripts were destroyed and scattered in this way,” Davis said.

Davis has painstakingly researched The Beauvais Missal and has located more than 100 individual pages across the country. In total, the missal numbered 309 pages in its original form.

The page that Sideri bought is of particular interest to scholars.

It’s a treasure and because of its age and condition, which is much better than the other page in the Colby collection, said Megan Cook, a former Sideris professor who teaches medieval literature at Colby.

The parchment is worth more than $10,000, according to Davis. But Sideris said he has no intention of selling it.

He said he likes the history and beauty of the parchment — and the story of how he came upon it.

“That’s something at the end of the day that I know is cool,” he said. “I didn’t buy it expecting to sell it.”


Follow David Sharp on Twitter: @David_Sharp_AP

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