John Aubrey recounts how one rector used old manuscripts from Malmesbury Abbey to stop up his beer barrels, and another parson's sons used them to scour their guns.
John Aubrey, 1626-97 edited Richard Barber, © Folio Society
John Aubrey, writer and antiquarian 1626-1697
Despite these and all the various destructive usage of old manuscripts and printed pages, miraculously many have survived. One is a completely unique page from an early Willam Caxton book of 1476-7, a Latin printing of the 11th century Sarum Ordinal, which was resting in the University of Reading Library archives. Lost for over 300 years, it had been found in 1820 being used to strengthen the binding of another book, but was unrecognised then as Caxton's printing. Nearly a century later, it has recently been rediscovered while cataloguing a vast repository of fragments from a typographer's collection. This rare "butterfly" is now on exhibition in Reading till mid June. (see Beckett, Books and Biscuits: University of Reading Special Collections for more information.)
William Caxton's printer's mark
Page with red letter initial, in the style of early manuscripts, from Caxton's Canterbury Tales