Just Out Last Millennium

Idaho’s Oldest Books

By Alessandro Meregaglia and Gwyn Hervochon

Last year, when Boise State University hosted a traveling exhibit featuring Shakespeare’s First Folio, it was the first time the 1623 book had visited the state.

As librarians and archivists at Boise State’s Special Collections and Archives and two of the primary organizers of the exhibit, we could not have been more thrilled to witness the enthusiastic response of nearly ten thousand people, from as far away as Coeur d’Alene and American Falls, during the month-long event.

We knew this wasn’t the oldest book in Idaho, but it got us thinking: what is the oldest one, and how did it arrive in this state? While it’s likely there are rare book collectors who have old books in their private collections, we wanted to find out where the oldest publicly accessible books are. So, we contacted every public and private college and university library in Idaho, plus the State Archives. The results were interesting: BSU’s Special Collections and Archives owns the oldest complete book, a 1470 edition of Historia Scholastica by Petrus Comestor. He was a 12th-Century historian, and this book was considered an important work of Biblical scholarship during the Middle Ages.

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