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The Somerville (MA) Public Library basement, two floors below teenagers clustered around computers, stores not only 25-year-old issues of "National Geographic" but 250-year-old books.
Cataloging librarian and occasional Boston Globe book reviewer Kevin O'Kelly said "most people have no idea this stuff is here." Half-forgotten for years, the treasures in the basement will finally get some attention this fall. The library got a $2,500 federal grant through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners to hire a conservation specialist who will examine the collection and recommend improvements.
The collection includes "Magnalia Christi Americana" by Cotton Mather, the 17th century Boston Puritan leader, with a publication date of 1702. O'Kelly ran his finger over its thick pages. "This might be a facsimile but I'm pretty sure it's a first edition because if you touch this you can feel the impressions made by the printing press," he said.