Treasures awaiting discovery in university collections
‘I don't think most people on campus have any idea of what’s here’
RARE FIND: Marie Malchodi, Brown University bookbinder, discovered a Paul Revere print during a routine assignment.
PBN PHOTO/FRANK MULLIN
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.