Treasures from Pa.'s Past Abound in Rare Books Room

Article excerpt

HARRISBURG -- With gloved hands, Kurt Bodling lay down a bound volume of Pennsylvania Gazette newspapers and delicately opened it to display an American legend.

Near the bottom of the second page in the Oct. 19, 1752, edition, the newspaper's publisher explains his recent experiment involving a kite, a key and a bolt of lightning.

Bodling, the state's rare books librarian, spends his days preserving riches like this in a corner room on the second floor of a state building near the Capitol. He is the latest in a line of caretakers stretching back to the Gazette's publisher in 1745.

"It started with Benjamin Franklin buying some books for the Legislature. He was clerk of the (General) Assembly at the time," Bodling said. He nodded toward a bookshelf in the corner. "Those are the books."

The deep-brown, leather-bound books cover subjects from architecture to history to law. They include a six-volume set called "The Statutes at Large," which contains every British law from the Magna Carta to the reign of King George III. …