The antique book collection at College of the North Atlantic (CNA) is a hidden gem, says Elizabeth Ann Critchley, Library Clerk at the college’s St. Anthony Campus.
“Our antique book collection consists of books ranging from 75 years old to over 100 years old,” she said. “Topics include history books, biographies, and a book of Shakespeare plays.”
She says the books are not only antiques; they are also rare.
“Many of these books are also first edition prints. The oldest book, Macaulay’s Works: The History of England IV, was written in 1856, dating it to almost 166 years old!” Critchley exclaimed. “Also being first or second editions, they show the books in their original print, how the authors would have wanted them.”
The Library Clerk, who’s been at St. Anthony campus for the past eight years, says these antique books require special care and attention.
“Originally, they were stored on top shelves in our reference collection. Having a background in English and Folklore, I knew that such books needed to be kept in a cool, dark place to help with preservation. They are now currently stored in the library storage room on their own shelf.”
Due to the age of the books, they are not permitted to be checked out; however, people are welcome to read them while in the library.
“If a patron is interested in reading one of these books, they must read them in the library and be handled carefully,” she noted. “I am hoping in the future to get gloves and special acid-free paper to help with further preservation.”
Despite their frailty, she encourages people to view them.
“Although they are stored, they can be read by public patrons and not just our students and staff,” she said. “As long as they remain in the library, anyone who has interest in books or even antiquity may see them. Of course, during the pandemic, visitation to the campus is restricted at this time, but these rules will hopefully change in the future.”
Yet it’s not only the age of the books that is impressive, but also the craftsmanship.
“Aside from age, they provide examples of how books were made back then compared to today. Some of the books are hand cut, which can be seen from the frayed sides of the pages. Hand-cut pages tend to be of different lengths, hence the frayed appearance. Older books from the 1800s in the collection also have a picture that was followed by a page made of tissue paper for use during the printing process opposite plate.”
Originally from Sandringham on the province’s Eastport Peninsula, she says she always had a passion for the written word.
“I grew up with books and when I went to university for my BA, I originally wanted to be a high school English teacher. After some setbacks, it was suggested that I investigate library studies as it still fit my interest in literature and providing to patrons. I did an LIT diploma with Nova Scotia Community College.”
Even during her free time, the book enthusiast says she’s drawn to reading and writing.
“During my free time I like to read books and write my own stories, either through my own manuscripts, fan fiction, or through the medium of video games such as The Sims. Reading and creating stories provides escapism, especially during the pandemic.”
For more information about St. Anthony or any other campus, visit https://www.cna.nl.ca.