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A bargain hunter picked up a 700-year-old medieval script for $75 at a yard sale that could be worth $10,000

Business Insider logo Business Insider 9/25/2022 rhogg@insider.com (Ryan Hogg)
The Beauvais Missal was said to be genuine by professors Megan Cook and Lisa Fagin Davis. Megan Cook © Megan Cook The Beauvais Missal was said to be genuine by professors Megan Cook and Lisa Fagin Davis. Megan Cook
  • A shopper got a surprise when he picked up a 700-year-old script for $75, per the Maine Monitor.
  • Academic Lisa Fagin Davis confirmed the piece was genuine, and could be worth up to $10,000.
  • Will Sideri, who bought the script, told the Maine Monitor he doesn't intend to sell the document. 

A bargain hunter spent just $75 on a medieval script at a yard sale that could be worth as much as $10,000.

The Maine Monitor reported last week that Will Sideri picked up the 700-year-old document at an estate sale in Maine after noticing the leaf adorned in Latin writing alongside some musical notes.

The Associated Press reported that Sideri was initially in the market for a "KitchenAid mixer, a bookshelf or vintage clothing" at the estate sale, but ended up spending $75 on the manuscript labelled: "1285 AD. Illuminated manuscript on vellum. $75.''

Sideri messaged Megan Cook, an English professor at Colby College who used to teach him, to ask if it was real. Cook got in touch with fellow academic Lisa Fagin Davis, who determined within a few hours that the photo was genuine, per the Monitor.

What's more, Davis said it could be worth up to $10,000. An expert on manuscripts confirmed the valuation to the AP.

Davis, a Simmons University professor, told Insider in an email: "Leaves of the Beauvais Missal measure around 295 x 205 mm and have 15 or 21 lines of text, or ten staves of music, in two columns.

"An estate sale in Maine isn't even the most unexpected place where a Beauvais Missal leaf has turned up. Will's leaf is, however, the least expensive leaf sold in recent memory. The most expensive was sold a few years ago for $10,000," she said.

Davis, who is also executive director of the Medieval Academy of America, said the script appeared to be from the Beauvais Missal, used in the Beauvais Cathedral in France, that dated back to the late 13th century. It was likely used in Roman Catholic worship. 

The academic told the Monitor that newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, said to be the inspiration for the film Citizen Kane, once owned the script before selling it in 1942.

Davis has written extensively on the Beauvais Missal, and told the Monitor individual scripts were likely torn out of a larger book by art dealers, much to the chagrin of academics. 

Despite knowing its true value, Sideri told the Monitor he doesn't intend to sell the script, and has handed it over to his parents for safe keeping while he moves home.

"This is something at the end of the day that I know is cool," he told the AP. "I didn't buy this expecting to sell it."

It is rare, but not unheard of, for the true value of a historic piece of art to go awry over time. In 2018, Laura Young bought a Roman Bust at a Goodwill in Austin for $34.99. It turned out to be a genuine 2,000-year-old relic, and was arranged to be returned to its rightful owners in Germany.

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