YSU’s Maag Library holds thousands of hidden gems, including Valley’s oldest book

Local News

The fifth floor houses an extensive collection of rare and historic books unlike any other in the area

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – After spending the last month calling multiple libraries and talking to book collectors, First News’ Stan Boney believes he has tracked down the area’s oldest book.

Boney made sure to contact as many people as he could in Mahoning, Trumbull, Columbiana and even Mercer counties.

The book — titled Illustrium Maioris Britanniae — is on the fifth floor of the Maag Library on Youngstown State University’s campus. The floor houses an extensive collection of rare and historic books unlike any other in the area, known as the Archives and Special Collections.

“It’s very cool. People get a very academic feeling. Some of the time they just like to smell the old books,” said Cassie Nespor, Maag Library curator.

The book was printed in England in 1548 but written in Latin.

“This paper’s very good. I’m not sure how much somebody read this or this was used,” Nespor said.

It contains a collection of transcripts possibly found in monasteries.

“It’s arranged by century. So all of the first-century documents are in one chapter and all of the transcriptions of the second-century documents,” Nespor said.

The fifth floor’s collection has between 2,000 and 3,000 titles. There are six books printed in the 1500s and 30 from the 1600s.

“And of everything covered in the encyclopedia,” Nespor said.

The library has a collection of all 30 volumes of the first edition of the Diderot Encyclopedia — the first encyclopedia to be printed in France in 1751.

“I ran into one [volume] that was all kinds of different occupations — candlemakers, horse smith — and it showed you the layout of their workshops and the tools that they used,” Nespor said.

There’s an extensive collection of anti-slavery documents, including a pamphlet that was from the Ohio Anti-Slavery Convention of 1835.

“The speeches that were given would be transcribed here,” Nespor said.

There’s also a large collection of bibles.

So, where did all these books come from?

“A lot of them were donated by people in the community to the university because people in the community know that the university has a place to keep rare things like this,” Nespor said.

None of the books in the YSU collection can be removed from the room, but anyone can view them inside the room. You don’t have to work for or be a student at YSU.

The Archives and Special Collections department is open Mondays through Fridays from 1-4 p.m.

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