In the late 1960s, Special Collections and Archives of Milne Library at SUNY Geneseo acquired a "Pages from the Past" portfolio set from antiquities dealer Alfred Stites. The set contains almost one hundred individual items, from a Babylonian cuneiform tablet to a page from a medieval French prayer-book to a leaf from a nineteenth-century edition of Audubon's famous naturalist studies. Almost all the items is a leaf or page taken from a manuscript or printed book. The set is a survey of the history of books and literacy, with a focus on the eastern United States and northwestern Europe.

This website presents comprehensive descriptions of each item in the "Pages from the Past" set and seeks to place each one back in its original context. 

This website is the result of a collaboration between students and faculty of the Department of History, the staff of Milne Library, and the Department of Computer and Information Technology.


  • Egyptian Scarab Beetle

    This is an Egyptian scarab beetle circa 1000 BCE accompanied by its relief image in clay. The scarab beetle became the signature seal of ancient Egyptians as individualized hieroglyphs were inscribed into the bottom of the beetles which were often pierced from front to back and threaded in order that the owner could carry the scarab seal with them.
  • Greek Papyrus

    This is part of a Greek-language papyrus approximately dated between 100 BCE and 100 CE. The heavy importation of raw material from the Nile Valley by the Romans is likely the cause for the extensive use of papyrus seen in this time.
  • Babylonian Clay Tablet

    This is an unnamed and unidentified Babylonian Clay Tablet c.a. 2500 BCE created with that is believed to be cuneiform characters.
  • Works of Josephus

    A leaf from the "Works of Josephus" written by Jewish historian Flavius Josephus and printed in 1554 by Jerome Froben.
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