There’s nothing like browsing through hundreds of Christmas books right after Halloween to get you in the holiday spirit. Even better is spending hours searching through every box for cookie cutters that were listed under the wrong number. Jokes aside, it was an endless pleasure to pour over colorful illustrations of Santa Claus and pick the perfect pages to display for the campus community. Every year, Special Collections puts together an exhibit of books from the Nancy H. Marshall A Visit from St. Nicholas Collection of books. Coming up with a unique theme for this yearly “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” exhibit was the toughest part until I considered what college students think about most during Finals Week (or at least what I did in college): cookies. I doubt many of you have tasted sugarplums, but the sentiment still holds. I even found the version of The Night Before Christmas that I read as a child. There’s certainly nothing better than a project that involves nostalgia and cookies.
Down in the belly of Special Collections sits a mysterious blue velvet box. Its contents are simultaneously mundane and bizarre, important for the study of language in Spain, and remarkably unremarkable. The box bears the inscription Matxin de Zalbaren Gutuna, La Carta de Machin de Zalba, 1416. What is it? Why do we have it? What makes it both special and ordinary?