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Making the Renaissance Manuscript

Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries
"Master B.F.,” Decorated letter P from the Santi Angelo e Niccolò at Villanova Sillaro choirbooks; Lombardy, ca. 1500. The Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E M 76:52
"Master B.F.,” Decorated letter P from the Santi Angelo e Niccolò at Villanova Sillaro choirbooks; Lombardy, ca. 1500. The Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E M 76:52

On exhibit Febrary 10-May 19, 2020

Occurring in conjunction with the 2020 annual meeting of the Renaissance Society of America in Philadelphia (April 2–4, 2020), this exhibition will examine the making of the hand-written and hand-illuminated book during a time of great political, religious, and technological transformation in Europe. Through approximately forty loans from ten regional institutions, as well another forty items from Penn’s own collections, the exhibition will examine the full intellectual and artistic depth of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries through a varied selection of extraordinary manuscripts, cuttings, and incunables, many of which have never before been exhibited.

A first section, "Crafting the Codex," will introduce the visitor to the patrons and collectors that were so often the genesis of these books, while conveying the role of humanist scribes and decorators in establishing aesthetic conventions that continue to this day. A middle section, "Showcasing Salvation," will vividly demonstrate the astonishing variety of artistic and codicological solutions devised to illustrate the increasingly complex rituals of private and public devotion. The final and largest section, entitled "Transmitting Knowledge," will showcase the intellectual world of the Renaissance by examining the re-birth of classical scholarship, the rise of a liberal arts curriculum, the growth of the mercantile class, and the exploration of new geographic frontiers.

The exhibition will provide an ideal opportunity to showcase the wonderfully diverse collections of Philadelphia institutions, as well as the research discoveries made during the course of the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis regional cataloguing and digitization project.

A fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, written by curator Dr. Nicholas Herman, will accompany the exhibition.

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