By Rebecca Keister
PBN Staff Writer
There are some 300,000 rare books inside Brown University’s John Hay Library. For the last 20 years Marie Malchodi, one of the university’s book-conservation technicians, has helped to preserve and protect them and the untold treasures they may keep.
Over two decades she’s discovered numerous interesting and sentimental items hidden inside - many of which have made their way into the staff’s collection and inspired stories of their own.
While working on a medical textbook once belonging to an 18th-century alumnus, she made a discovery that thrust her, her co-workers and the library into the public spotlight.
Inside an 1811 edition of “The Modern Practice of Physics” by Robert Thomas owned by Solomon Drowne, class of 1773, was a print depicting John the Baptist and Jesus in the Jordan River signed ‘P. Revere Sculpt’ – as in Paul Revere.
It was later determined the print is one of only five such in existence and not entirely characteristic of Revere’s best-known work, further amplifying its significance.
PBN: What was your first thought on finding the print?
MALCHODI: I didn’t take it in as a whole at first. I have a tendency to work at details. I saw what was [to me] this really strange composition. The perspective [was] primitive almost. It was probably only after I noticed all the details that I saw the name [Paul Revere] and thought, wow, I didn’t know he did this kind of work. I was sort of stunned.
PBN: Did you have any idea of the print’s significance or of the attention you would receive from this?
MALCHODI: I had no idea that it was a very rare or one of the rarest [Revere] prints. I brought it to Richard [Noble, the library’s rare-materials cataloguer] and he was able to find information about it almost immediately. I had no idea this would happen at all. It was very exciting when we found it.