Now in UB's library collection: Buffalo's oldest printed books

Sep 5, 2017

Relics from Buffalo's earliest years are now in the hands of librarians at the University at Buffalo. They are the oldest books printed in this region and the university is planning to soon make public access possible. 


They were produced in the early 19th Century and include Niagara Falls tour books, the Village of Buffalo's first directory (published in 1828) and the first City of Buffalo directory published four years later. There are also maps, pamphlets and a newspaper included in the collection.

The oldest item in the collection, according to UB, dates back to 1812. It is a volume known as "The French Convert," telling the tale of a noble woman who left the Catholic faith to become Protestant. 

"For me, it was quite literally a picnic basket of pleasure, going through these titles," said Michael Basinski, who directs UB's Special Collections. "Just to watch the city evolve, to watch and see what people were reading, what their interests were, what Buffalo was producing in the 1830s, 1820s and into the 1850s. It's a whole lot of fun."

The books belonged to the Eugene Musial Imprint Collection. Upon Mr. Musial's passing, it was explained, the books were given to Ronald Cozzi at Old Editions Bookshop, from where UB made the acquisition.

"Mrs. Cozzi, Marilee Cozzi, did a fine bibliographic job tracing down the provenance of these books, authenticating the dates of publication and going all the historical background of the books," Basinski said. 

University librarians are in the process of cataloguing the volumes. Those interested in looking at them may visit the Unique and Special Book Collection inside Room 420 in Capen Hall on UB's North Campus. Plans include scanning the books so that the broader public may enjoy a glimpse of some of the region's earliest publications.

"As soon as we are able to open this collection to the general public, we will do so," Basinski said.