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One of the important works of medieval scholarship, Historia Scholastica was written in the 12th century by the French cleric Peter Comestor. It was copied by scribes by hand for more than 300 years until the invention of the printing press in the mid-15th century, when it became one of the first books printed.  A biblical abridgement, it has been described by 20th-century scholar James H. Morey as "the primary text for biblical instruction in the late Middle Ages....As a work of literature, the Historia made the Bible, which can be very strange and intractable, into a coherent, orthodox, and entertaining narrative."  The detail above, from the bottom of a column of type, comes from the edition of 1479, printed by Conrad Winters in Cologne, Germany. The initial letters throughout the book were added by hand, as was the rubrication. The marginalia was recorded by an unknown scholar centuries ago. Click here to see the entire page. Albertsons Library's copy was once owned by the British printer and bibliographer William Blades (1824-1890).  It was purchased by the Library in 1955. To date, there are no known modern English translations. Historia Scholastica belongs to that class of books known as "incunabula" (Latin, "in the cradle"), books printed before 1501, during the infancy of book printing in Europe.

James H. Morey's article, "Peter Comestor, Biblical Paraphrase, and the Medieval Popular Bible" in the journal Speculum (v. 68, pp. 6-35, 1993) is available online via JSTOR.

See the website Wikisource for text of Historia Scholastica online.

Albertsons Library's rare books are located in the Special Collections Department.  The oldest book in the Albertsons Library is an edition of the medieval work, Historia Scholastica was printed in Cologne, Germany, in 1479, soon after the invention of the printing press. Once owned by the British bibliographer William Blades, this copy of Historia Scholastica contains handwritten marginalia recorded in Latin centuries ago by a long-forgotten scholar.


Special Collections is also home to a small collection of books from the 16th through 19th centuries that represent the history of bookmaking; a collection of eccentric books illustrating contemporary book arts; and several subject-based collections preserved for their research value. Included are a collection of dime novels from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,  Boise alternative newspapers from the 1960s and 70s, the de Groot and Bittner collections of books about Ernest Hemingway, and hard-to-find publications on contemporary issues such as wolf reintroduction and ethanol production.  The library's rare books are listed in the catalog and are available in the Special Collections reading room on the second floor.

Special Collections also houses an extensive collection of books about Idaho known as the Idaho Collection, described here.

Special Collections • 1910 University Drive • Boise, ID 83725-1430 • Phone: 208-426-1204 • Email: Archives