PORTLAND, Maine (AP) – A bargain hunter who went to an estate sale in Maine to find a KitchenAid mixer, bookshelf or vintage clothing walked away with a 700-year-old treasure.
Instead of a kitchen appliance, Will Sideri stumbled upon a framed document hanging on a wall. It had an elaborate script in Latin, along with musical notes and a golden flower. Sticker said 1285 AD. Based on what he saw in a manuscript class at Colby College, the document looked very medieval.
And it was a bargain at $75.
Academics confirmed that the parchment was from The Beauvais Missal, which was used in Beauvais Cathedral in France, and until the end of the 13th century. It was used about 700 years ago in Roman Catholic worship, they said.
A manuscript expert said the document could be worth up to $10,000, the Maine Monitor first reported.
After spying the unusual manuscript, Sideri contacted his former professor at Colby College, who was familiar with it because another page is in the college’s collection. The professor contacted another academic who researched the document. They quickly confirmed authenticity.
The parchment was part of the priests’ prayer book and liturgy, said Lisa Fagin Davis, executive director of the American Medieval Academy and professor of manuscript studies at Simmons University in Boston.
The entire mission was once owned by William Randolph Hearst, the newspaper’s publisher, before it was sold in the 1940s and, to the dismay of today’s academics, divided into individual pages, she said.
The practice was common in the early 20th century. “Thousands of unique manuscripts were destroyed and scattered in this way,” Davis said.
Davis has done extensive research on The Beauvais Missal, and has tracked down more than 100 individual pages across the country. All told, the missal contained 309 pages in its original form.
The page bought by Sideri is of particular interest to students.
It’s a treasure because of its age and condition, which is much better than the other page in Colby’s collection, said Megan Cook, a former Sideri professor who teaches medieval literature at Colby.
According to Davis, the parchment is worth up to $10,000. But Sideri said he has no intention of selling it.
He said he likes the history and beauty of the parchment – and the story of how he stumbled upon it.
“At the end of the day this is something I know is cool,” he said. “I didn’t buy this expecting to sell it.”
Follow David Sharp on Twitter: @David_Sharp_AP