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Touch a piece of history in its original form
Mount brings 46 important historical documents to campus

James Rada, Jr.
Emmitsburg Dispatch

(8/7) Roger Taney’s bust sparked a controversy in Frederick earlier this year, but not nearly as big a controversy as a decision the U.S. Supreme Court he presided over did in 1857. The Dred Scott Decision split the country over the issue of slavery and was a factor that led to the Civil War.

Now imagine holding that decision in your hands as it was printed in 1857 and reading it in the context that citizens read it in the 19th Century. In fact, a U.S. citizen in 1857 might have held the document you’re reading, clutching it tighter as he or she read the inflammatory language.

Lucky for those of us today that person didn’t rip the decision up in anger because we are able to hold it in our hands and read it as it had been written back then.
Mount St. Mary’s University’s Phillips Library will host a collection of rare books and documents, some of which are more than 500 years old. The collection is on loan from The Remnant Trust beginning Aug. 21. The Remnant Trust encourages learning by allowing people to view and actually touch early editions of important works on human rights and liberty.

“That’s the whole point of the exhibit is to allow people to hold them,” said Christian Kendzierski with the Mount’s communications staff. “We want people to be able to handle them.”

Of course, visitors will have to wear cotton gloves supplied by the Mount to keep dirt and oils off the documents.

“These documents formed our nation and these philosophies continue to form our future,” says Mount President Thomas H. Powell. “It is an honor to be able to enrich our student’s academic experiences with these historic texts and to be able to share them with the local community.”

Besides the Dred Scott Decision, other documents and books visitors can view and handle are:
• First edition printing of "The Gettysburg Address", by Abraham Lincoln, (1863)
• Third edition of “The Declaration of Independence” (1776)
• First printing of “The Bill of Rights” (1789)
• First edition printing of essays written by Ralph Waldo Emerson (1841)
• First edition of Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” (1776)
• First printing of “The Bill of Rights” (1789)
• First English edition of “The Republic” by Plato (1763)
• The narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, autobiography (1846)
• Summa Theologiae Pars Secunda by Thomas Aquinas (1475)

“The Mount community will have total access to this collection. Being able to see and touch the actual books and volumes will make the past come alive for students. To hold a first edition of Emerson’s Essays or Smith’s Wealth of Nations will connect them directly to authors and readers long gone as they wonder who else has held this book over the centuries,” says Dr. Stephen Rockwood, Dean of the Library. “These books are a tangible reminder to all of us that ideas are just as enduring and valuable as diamonds.“

Special events are planned throughout the semester while the exhibit is housed at the Mount's Phillips Library.

The display is open to the public for viewing Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m.-Midnight; Friday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sunday, Noon-Midnight. To schedule a group visit, please contact Rockwood at (301) 447-5244.

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