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Literae Humaniores

Treasures from the University of Pennsylvania Library
Literae Humaniores

On Exhibit October 20, 2006 - February 16, 2007

Originally shown at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium in 2003, this exhibition of manuscript and printed treasures from Penn's Library concentrates on books that illustrate the central position of the Humanist tradition in American universities. That tradition underlies the various rebirths of learning that eventually led to the Enlightenment, the movement from which both the United States of America and its great institutions of higher education emerge. This exhibition offers a rare glimpse of some of Penn's most visually interesting, beautiful, and important books.

Here, then, we show specimens of the ancient Greek and Roman Classical traditions from which Humanism arose. Related philological studies, some medieval precursors to the Humanists, and additional volumes with a notable provenance, annotations, or binding, are all on display.

Here too are works from the history of philosophy and science. These are products of the same questioning cast of mind that led to the rebirth of the historical humanities.

Also on display are religious and sacred books that recall the origins of European philology in the study of Biblical as well as of Classical texts. But they also reflect a particular aspect of American library collections, reflecting the strong religious impulses that took many different peoples to this country from places where their religion, whatever it was, could not easily be practiced. That history informs American library collecting and building and needs to be remembered.

These books represent intellectual traditions and communities that propelled what is now seen as an era of rapid globalization preceding our own. In our own era of globalization, we preserve and make accessible the raw materials that promote research into, recuperation of, and thought about the cultural origins of these local and global transformations that have made us who and what we are.

A virtual exhibition, available online, shows some of the books and manuscripts from the University of Pennsylvania, which were lent to Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in 2003

Exhibition reception Thursday, November 2, 5:30pm

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