Funding from the B. H. Breslauer Foundation has brought to the University of South Carolina's Thomas Cooper Library an Italian manuscript written in 1269 for the Order of Cistercians.
Prof. Scott Gwara of the Department of English, who made contact with the Foundation on the library's behalf, identified the manuscript as a preacher's manual, with pages of biblical interpretations used for making sermons, extracts from the lives of saints, a calendar noting the days honoring saints and martyrs, and a bestiary noting symbolic interpretations of Biblical animals. "While these writings are unique, they conform to a wider tradition of medieval thought," Dr. Gwara said. "There could be no better introduction to medieval Christianity than a compilation like this."
The B. H. Breslauer Foundation of New York was established and endowed by the late Dr. Bernard H. Breslauer (1918-2004), with the main purpose of giving grants to libraries that collect rare books and manuscripts in the United States and to the US affiliates of libraries elsewhere. Felix de Marez Oyens, president of the Breslauer Foundation said, "Since its inception a few years ago, the foundation has financed significant book purchases by major libraries on the East Coast and in several European countries, but none has been more appropriate or satisfying than the University of South Carolina's Cistercian manuscript. We believe that its acquisition perfectly embodies the late Dr. Breslauer's ideas when he created the foundation."
The manuscript totals 364 leaves, and nearly all the texts in it are unpublished. It will provide students at South Carolina with a number of different research projects, as well as sigificantly expanding the range of manuscripts held by the library. Dr. Gwara is currently engaged in research on a census of all medieval manuscripts in the state, identifying, describing, and digitizing them, in preparation for a major exhibit scheduled to open in January 2008.