Sask. college home to some of rarest books in the world

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Athol Murray College of Notre Dame's copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of many rare books in the school's collection. (Notre Dame Hounds/YouTube - image credit)
Athol Murray College of Notre Dame's copy of the Nuremberg Chronicle, one of many rare books in the school's collection. (Notre Dame Hounds/YouTube - image credit)

While the Athol Murray College of Notre Dame may be best known for its hockey program, the school's rare book collection is equally as impressive.

Many of the school's books were collected by the college's namesake, Father Athol Murray, who gathered the tomes as he travelled across the country.

"Father Murray always had a great, great love for books and especially old books," said former archivist Gerry Scheibel.

Scheibel cared for the collection for years, even well after he retired as a teacher at the school. He said the collection is amazing.

"Some of our early books were written on goat skin in the 1200s and early 1300s, before the printing press," he said.

"They're called parchment books and they're handwritten."

Other books in the collection include German bibles printed by Martin Luther, as well as the Neurenberg Chronicle from in 1493, one of the first books to be printed rather than handwritten.

"There's 2,000 woodcuts in the book," said Scheibel.

"What they had to do at that time, they had to carve pictures out of wood because that was the only way they could print them."

Unsurprisingly, a lot of work goes into preserving these books. The rare book room is temperature- and humidity-controlled.

"So far, we've had good luck," he said.

"The humidity has to right, otherwise it will curl the pages. And if it gets too dry, it will dry the pages out and they crack and shred."

While tours to see the rare book room have been suspended due to COVID-19, Scheibel said they will resume once restrictions are lifted.