Courtesy the University of Reading
Courtesy the University of Reading

Rare Pages From England’s Earliest Printing Press Found in Library Archives

Courtesy the University of Reading
Courtesy the University of Reading

A librarian at the University of Reading has rediscovered some of the first pages ever printed in England, according to the BBC.

The two-sided page, found hidden in the library’s archives, is from one of the first books printed by William Caxton, who set up the first printing press in England and became the country's first book retailer. Printed sometime in late 1476 or early 1477, the pages were part of a handbook for medieval priests called Sarum Ordinal.

The leaf is not just rare, but one of a kind. No full copies of the book have survived, though the British Library holds eight other double-sided leaves out of the original 160. These recently located pages are from a different part of a book than those at the British Library.

Erika Delbecque holds up the Caxton leaf she discovered in the University of Reading's library archives

Librarian Erika Delbecque holds up the Caxton leaf.

Courtesy the University of Reading

At one point, the leaf of paper had been pasted into another book to reinforce its spine, according to special collections librarian Erika Delbecque, who found it while cataloging materials in the library. In the 1820s, the leaf was discovered by a Cambridge librarian and taken out of that book, but that librarian didn’t know that it was a Caxton-printed page. Delbecque found it in the collection of John Lewis, a typographer whose papers the University of Reading purchased in 1997.

“I suspected it was special as soon as I saw it,” she says in a press release. “The trademark blackletter typeface, layout, and red paragraph marks indicate it is very early western European printing. It is incredibly rare to find an unknown Caxton leaf, and astonishing that it has been under our noses for so long.” The early printing specialist who evaluated its authenticity estimates its worth at up to $129,000.

The pages will be on display to the public at the MERL Museum in Reading until May 30.

[h/t BBC]

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NASA, Getty Images
Watch Apollo 11 Launch
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
Vice President Spiro Agnew and former President Lyndon Johnson view the liftoff of Apollo 11
NASA, Getty Images

Apollo 11 launched on July 16, 1969, on its way to the moon. In the video below, Mark Gray shows slow-motion footage of the launch (a Saturn V rocket) and explains in glorious detail what's going on from a technical perspective—the launch is very complex, and lots of stuff has to happen just right in order to get a safe launch. The video is mesmerizing, the narration is informative. Prepare to geek out about rockets! (Did you know the hold-down arms actually catch on fire after the rocket lifts off?)

Apollo 11 Saturn V Launch (HD) Camera E-8 from Spacecraft Films on Vimeo.

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Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Utility Workers May Have Found One of Rome’s First Churches
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

The remains of what may have been one of Rome’s earliest Christian churches were accidentally discovered along the Tiber River during construction, The Local reports. The four-room structure, which could have been built as early as the 1st century CE, was unearthed by electrical technicians who were laying cables along the Ponte Milvio.

The newly discovered structure next to the river
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

No one is sure what to make of this “archaeological enigma shrouded in mystery,” in the words of Rome’s Archaeological Superintendency. Although there’s no definitive theory as of yet, experts have a few ideas.

The use of colorful African marble for the floors and walls has led archaeologists to believe that the building probably served a prestigious—or perhaps holy—function as the villa of a noble family or as a Christian place of worship. Its proximity to an early cemetery spawned the latter theory, since it's common for churches to have mausoleums attached to them. Several tombs were found in that cemetery, including one containing the intact skeleton of a Roman man.

Marble flooring
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma

A tomb
Romano D’Agostini, Giorgio Cargnel, Soprintendenza Speciale di Roma1

The walls are made of brick, and the red, green, and beige marble had been imported from Sparta (Greece), Egypt, and present-day Tunisia, The Telegraph reports.

As The Local points out, it’s not all that unusual in Rome for archaeological discoveries to be made by unsuspecting people going about their day. Rome’s oldest aqueduct was found by Metro workers, and an ancient bath house and tombs were found during construction on a new church.

[h/t The Local]

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