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The oldest items in our collection

03 September 2020

Watch Access All Areas: The oldest items in our collection

Kate Torney shares insights into two precious items showcased in our World of the book exhibition, celebrating the unique place that books hold in our hearts and minds.

  • A 4000-year-old clay tablet bearing cuneiform writing – one of the world's earliest writing scripts, originating in the region of modern-day Iraq. This priceless cuneiform tablet (which, ironically, is a tax receipt) takes the trophy for being the oldest item in the Library's collection.
  • A manuscript of Boethius' music theory, a work so influential it was the standard text on the subject from the Middle Ages until the 18th century. This stunning text crosses the line as the oldest book in our collection.

Discover more about the oldest items in our collection

  • Both the cuneiform tablet and Boethius manuscript are on display in our free World of the book exhibition that celebrates the history of books and reading from antiquity to the present day. Visit our dedicated World of the book page to discover some remarkable books in our collection, and learn how book production and design has evolved over time.
  • Dive into our online catalogue to discover more on the Boethius manuscript and cuneiform tablet, and view digitised versions of these items up-close!
  • Browse this curated set of videos to deepen your understanding of the book's rich tradition and ongoing relevance.
  • From ancient artefacts to contemporary artists' books, find out more about our Rare Books collection (which, by the way, includes Australia's largest collection of medieval manuscripts).
  • Victorian Library members can listen to Boethius' music from home via the Naxos Music Database. Simply find Naxos in our A-Z databases then sign in using your Library Member number.

About Access All Areas

In this video series, join former CEO Kate Torney for exclusive insights into her most cherished collection items, spaces (including some that even staff can't access!), legends and legacies at State Library Victoria.

Find out more and view all episodes of Access All Areas.