The man, Will Sideri, went to an estate sale in Waterville this month looking for a cake mixer but ended up purchasing a page from a Christian liturgy book that historians believe originated in Beauvais, France during the 13th century.
Sideri purchased the leaf, which was labeled at the sale as an “illuminated manuscript on vellum” from 1285, according to the Maine Monitor, which first reported the story. The actual value of the document is estimated to be worth up to $10,000, far more than what Sideri purchased it for.
He says that he is not planning on selling the document and will keep it at his parent’s home for now. “This is something at the end of the day that I know is cool,” he said. “I didn’t buy this expecting to sell it.”
He also looks forward to having something “vintage” to hang on his wall. “I have something very vintage. Like 1285 vintage,” Sideri said.
According to Sideri, he believed that the document was legitimate and reached out to Megan Cook, who had been his professor at Colby College. “I have a question for you. I think this might be real,’” he texted her alongside a photo of the manuscript.
“I said, ‘wow, that looks familiar,'” Cook said she told her former student. After contacting his former professor, Sideri left the sale to get a check to purchase the historic page.
Cook said on Twitter that she compared Sideri’s leaf with one held by Colby College, noting that the white vellum from Sideri’s leaf had been remarkably preserved in part because it had been framed since the 1940s.
The page contained Latin texts that priests would use during prayer liturgy, said Lisa Fagin, a professor at Simmons University in Boston who was contacted by Cook about the find. Fagin is also the executive director of the Medieval Academy of America.
She said that the page was taken from a missal, a Christian liturgy book, that had once been owned by New York businessman William Randolph Hearst, who ran a large newspaper empire. After Hearst sold the missal, individual pages were taken out and sold to artifact collectors, disseminating the ancient manuscripts throughout the country.
In an effort to digitally reconstruct the liturgy book, Davis has created an online website where she works to compile images of the various pages that have been discovered around the country. Originally 309 pages, Davis has found 114 of the manuscript pages, the Maine Monitor reported.
“This stuff just shows up at the craziest places,’’ Davis said, referring to her efforts to locate the contents of the original book.