DescriptionIn 2003 a mysterious stone book was donated to The University of Newcastle and it has kept us guessing as to its origin and purpose.
The book is approximately 8.5cms by 7cms by 2.5cms and carved from medium grain sandstone.
The stone book was donated to the University by staff member Robert Stephens, who donated the book after viewing a collection of ancient artefacts from Roman Britain in the library. The stone artefact had been passed down from his grandfather to his father and on to him. His understanding was that prior to the age of printing, when books were rare, these stone books were carried by people to church.
The late, retired Rare Books Librarian Elizabeth Guilford suggested that it could possibly be a Christian amulet of sorts and that it was possibly a stone missal that acted as a substitute for the bible, was possibly blessed by a priest, and that could then take the place of a holy bible as spiritual protection for someone who couldn’t read.
This object is also the topic of a story by the author Alan Garner entitled The Stone Book where a young girl from a mining community is given such a stone bible (with a fossil inside) to carry to church by her father.
So far our research has suggested two possible explanations for the stone book.
It could have been a stone missal that acted as a substitute for a bible. It was possibly blessed by a priest and then took the place of a Holy Bible as spiritual protection for someone who couldn’t read.
Or, it may have been a memorial for the dead. The closed book could be a memorial of one’s life.