Let us return to Burr, himself a skilled and talented librarian who assembled the first comprehensive collection of books and trial records relating to European witchcraft held by an American university. On the margins of these rare books, one finds, in his handwriting, notes in which he explains the importance of a book, its usefulness for teaching and research, and his own sometimes poignant observations. The following note is found in a book printed in 1471 that he had acquired in Trier:
“This is the first edition of the Fortalitium Fidei of the apostate Spanish Jew Alphonsus de Spina, and is the earliest printed book dealing with the subject of witchcraft, to which the closing portion of the work is devoted. […] It may be interesting to know that the lessons of the witchcraft portion were not wasted on the monks of St. Maximin [in Trier]. Nowhere in all Europe did the persecutions of these unfortunates rage with greater virulence than within the jurisdiction of this old abbey [founded in the 4th century] during the last decades of the 16th century. From its twenty villages or so hundreds went to the stake […] Remembering this, and the part which this volume may have taken in suggesting it, one can hardly turn these pages without a shudder” (Cornell Library, Division of Rare Books and Manuscripts, BT1100 A45++).
Burr’s most spectacular acquisition for Cornell was a superb mid-fifteenth century illuminated Lombardino gradual – a gradual is a compendium of all the musical pieces in the Catholic mass, omitting the spoken parts. The text is bound with wooden plates, covered with deerskin, and decorated with bronze bosses and spikes (hence, its nickname, “Mr. Spiky”).
Lombard Gradual Received in 1891
Cornell University Library, Division of Rare Books and Manuscripts 4600 Bd. Ms. 20+++