Introduction Overview Images KU Leuven Penn Library
 
Literae Humaniores
in the University of Pennsylvania Library:
An Overview

Benjamin Franklin, one of the founders of the University of Pennsylvania in the eighteenth century, was among the earliest donors to the new institutionís Library. Such people as the American geographer and cartographer Lewis Evans and Louis XVI, King of France, were also early donors. With their assistance, Pennís Library became, by the end of the nineteenth century, one of the major research collections in the United States, and its growth has continued. Today, its collections comprise nearly 6 million volumes and many more millions of pieces of manuscript materials.

This exhibition brings to Europe some of the most important and beautiful early books at the University. Some are manuscripts and printed books relating to Leuven itself: a Leuven studentís lecture notes on Aristotle and a seventeenth-century Latin Bible printed in Leuven with extensive marginal commentary by a contemporary Roman Catholic English physician. Humanist works from Italy, France, Germany, England, and the Low Countries are exhibited alongside books beautifully bound or illustrated with hand-colored drawings and plates. Literary works include a poetry manuscript from fourteenth-century France intended for presentation to royalty and an autograph manuscript of a play by the seventeenth-century Spanish playwright, Lope de Vega, as well as works from Italy, the Low Countries, and England. A book annotated by Sir Isaac Newton is one of the earliest scientific works on display, together with books of travel and exploration. Versions of classical and European texts produced by Franklin and other noted Americans are also shown. Monuments of religious scholarship include a fifteenth-century manuscript of the New Testament in English, a sixteenth-century German Bible with miniatures of Luther and Melancthon from the studio of Lucas Cranach the younger, and the first Bible produced in North America, printed in Massachuset, a Native American language. A fifteenth-century manuscript cookbook, several fifteenth-century printed books, an elaborately illustrated fencing manual from the seventeenth century, early Judaica, and finely illustrated Renaissance and Baroque architectural treatises are also on exhibit. The arts of the book are everywhere on display in this exhibition of the cultural exchanges between Europe and America during the past two and a half centuries.

 
Daniel Traister,
Curator, Annenberg Rare Book & Manuscript Library