The materials in Rauner are available for use only in our reading room, but we do at least let our users pick up and handle the items they request. The owners of a German law book in our Bindings collection clearly wanted to make sure the volume's users didn't walk away with the text - so they chained the book to its shelf. The manuscript was written in Latin around 1450 and bound with oak boards thick enough to support the substantial chain, which is fastened with a metal staple through the upper edge of the rear board. This somewhat drastic approach to security was fairly typical in institutional collections. Manuscripts were time-consuming to produce and hard to replace, especially if the source text was difficult to find. The practice of chaining books to their shelves was gradually abandoned as printing made texts cheaper and more easily available and as more fragile pasteboard bindings were substituted for heavy wood covers.
Ask for Bindings 122 to see this relic for yourself.
Posted for Anne Peale '11