On my first day at Les Imaginales, a pair of librarians came up and invited me to visit the Epinal Library. What I didn’t realize — they may have mentioned it and I just missed it — was that they were giving us a private tour of the rare books room.

Epinal Library Rare Books Room

It was amazing. One of the true highlights of my trip to France. My interpreter Lionel, an author himself, was as awestruck as I was. Especially when they brought out the first book. If I’m remembering right, this was from the 8th century.

8th century religious text

The next one wasn’t quite as old…being from the 9th century. This Gospel of Saint Mark was a youthful 1200 years old.

Gospel of St. Mark: 9th Century

The cover is metal and ivory. I’m not sure what kind of jewels those are. The circular areas on the corners were for holding relics. Here’s a glimpse of the interior:

Gospel of St. Mark: Interior

You can see the full set of photos on Flickr. (Or you may have already seen them on Facebook.) It was such a wonderful experience. My thanks to everyone at Bibliothèque Municipale d’Epinal for their time and generosity.

I’ll end with a map of Michigan from one of the books that was “only” a few centuries old. Michigan sure looked different in the old days…

Map of Michigan

Mirrored from Jim C. Hines.

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