The Rare Books Collection

St Paschal Library holds a small collection of Rare Books within the Australia definition of "rare books". Those of greatest importance would be select manuscripts and incunabula. This group, with the major exception of the Franciscan Missal (see below), was acquired by the late Fr Sebastian Day OFM in Mexico and Europe in the mid-1940s.

At the end of World War 2 and before returning to Australia after completing his doctoral degree in philosophy at Saint Bonaventure University in the USA, Fr Day (who was a member of this Holy Spirit Franciscan Province) was commissioned by the Provincial Administration to tour relevant American and European countries to make personal contact with booksellers and to collect material for the theology and philosophy library of the recently founded St Paschal College.

The most valuable item on the Rare Book category is the manuscript Franciscan Missal, the Codex Sancti Paschalis, of ca 1275 which is at present on permanent loan to the State Library of Victoria. This missal had been in the vast medieval manuscript library of the renowned bibliophile and collector, Sir Thomas Phillipps.

In a letter of June 30th 1948 the London firm of booksellers, William H. Robinson Ltd, informed the Victoria State Library (for which it had acted as agents on previous occasions) that it had purchased "by private treaty and direct from the Trustees" the remainder of the late Sir Thomas's library. The firm proposed an arrangement whereby, at regular intervals, it would send to Melbourne "on consignment", and without any obligation upon the Melbourne Library Trustees, a select number of manuscripts. The hope was that wealthy Australians would purchase some or all of them as gifts for the Library.

On February 28th 1949 the first such group of medieval manuscripts, eight in all, was delivered to the library and included in it was the Franciscan Missal simply designated as "Codex Missalis". Because of this Franciscan significance, negotiations were entered into with the State Library Trustees who generously waived their right of purchase in favour of St Paschal College. A Franciscan benefactor, who requested that he remain anonymous, purchased the missal for the library. It was formally delivered into the care of the library on July 12th 1949 after being on display for a period in the foyer of the State Library. The missal was given its present title of Codex Sancti Paschalis by the late Fr Celsus Kelly OFM when he prepared his detailed description and analysis of it for publication in July 1949.