Fifty years of thanks

By Jeremy Dibbell, Special Collections Librarian

In November, Special Collections will mark the 50th anniversary of the acquisition of Binghamton University’s first early modern manuscript. In 1972, Professor Aldo Bernardo, co-founder of the Center for Medieval and Early Renaissance Studies (CEMERS), facilitated the purchase of the early 15th-century manuscript containing two works by the Italian humanist scholar Petrarch (1304–74). To supply half the funds for this purchase, Bernardo launched a crowdfunding campaign, raising money from 39 Broome County residents and businesses; the University Libraries provided the remaining funds.

A magnifying glass laid on a manuscript to amplify a red hand scrolled letter "R"
A manuscript
example from Special Collections, photo by J. Cohen

During a 1972 ceremony at which the manuscript was formally presented to the Libraries, Willis Bridegam, then director of University Libraries, remarked, “As a teaching tool, it demonstrates the methods of early bookmaking in all its forms: script, parchment textures, binding, etc. A university library should not be without a good example of this type of codex.” We could not agree more, and our collection of manuscripts has continued to grow over the subsequent decades, providing more teaching examples for Binghamton’s students.

To celebrate this important anniversary, Special Collections will hold an open house from 2:30–4:30 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 10, immediately preceding the annual Bernardo Lecture sponsored by CEMERS. The Petrarch manuscript and other early Petrarch texts from Bernardo’s collection will be on display in Special Collections. The Libraries hope to invite family members of the original community donors who assisted in this purchase five decades ago.

For more information, contact Jeremy Dibbell, Special Collections Librarian at