17 August, 2015 - Gethsemani books returning home




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Back in the early years of the 20th century, Abbot Edmond Obrecht, who was the abbot here from 1898 until his death in early 1935, accumulated a valuable collection of manuscripts and incunabula (early printed books) spanning the 12th through the 16th centuries.

In the 1970's, the abbey loaned these valuable books along with many other monastic titles to the University of Western Michigan in Kalamazoo. At that time the University had a burgeoning Cistercian Studies program, the only one of its kind in North America.

Since then, however, the focus of the University has changed somewhat. There is also a new era in manuscript studies ushered in by the ease of digitization. No longer do scholars need to travel as much to consult manuscripts and other rare books. Many early books are now available online, to be consulted by anyone. In light of this, the monks of Gethsemani decided to bring its collection back home.

The manuscripts and incunabula have gone to Collegeville, which has an ongoing project to digitize manuscript collections. Once they have finished digitizing the collection, those books will also return to Gethsemani.

The remainder of the books were loaded into a large van by Fr. Elias and Br. Lawrence and driven back to Gethsemani.




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 Here is Fr. Elias with most of the books from Kalamazoo. They will be housed in climate-controlled conditions here in the monastic library.

We wish to thank the librarians at Western Michigan for their cooperation and fine organization of the books, particularly Susan Steuer, who bore the main responsibility for the massive task. Their preparation made the move almost easy.