The Helen G. Tashiera Incunabula Collection
On October 9, 1938, Mr. Arthur G. Tashiera presented a 1489 edition of St. Augustine's De Civitate Dei (City of God) to the Middlebury College Library. Owners of a summer home in Shrewsbury, Vermont, Mr. Tashiera and his wife Helen had no direct connection with the College, but believed in the personal and academic ideals that Middlebury represented. With the acquisition of forty-three books from the estate of Helen G. Tashiera in late summer 1945, Middlebury College gained ownership not only of one of the finest incunabula collections among small liberal arts colleges in America at the time, but also duplicates of titles in some of the world's finest rare book collections including those of Harvard, the Huntington Library, the Library of Congress, and the British Museum.
Incunabula, the plural of incunabulum, Latin for "cradle," categorizes books printed between Johann Gutenberg's invention of moveable type (1450-56) and the year 1500, roughly the first fifty years, or the "cradle period," of printing. Among the most treasured possessions of any library, incunabula represent not only one of the great milestones in the history of human technology, but the care, elegant proportion, and artistry of the illuminated manuscripts and calligraphy painstakingly created by monastic scribes for centuries, preserving all of the world's knowledge to that time. The collection represents the rapid spread of printing from its birthplace in Mainz, to Strasburg, Cologne, Basle, Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Bruges, in Northern Europe; to Westminster, England, where books were printed in English rather than Latin; and south to Venice. Books produced by the finest printers in these centers are richly represented in the collection.
The Helen G. Tashiera Incunabula Collection stands as a monument to the generosity of its donors.