• Symposium
  • Kislak

The Image of the Book: Representing the Codex from Antiquity to the Present

16th Annual Lawrence J. Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age

Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Orrery Pavilion, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, sixth floor

Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia
Parkway Central Library, third floor

November 16-18, 2023
Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts and Free Library of Philadelphia
Open to the Public
Detail of an opened illuyminated book of hours in a Renaissance painting.

A great deal of recent research has focused on the objecthood of the pre-modern book and its associated materiality. But only sporadic attempts have been made to understand the role of visual representations of the book in conveying ideas about knowledge. How can our understanding be transformed when the dictum that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is put into practice, when the how of depiction is accorded as much importance as the what of textual content? This symposium will examine the means by which the book, and in particular the manuscript, is described across a wide variety of media, from painting and sculpture to digital media and film. Topics to be addressed include the book as a symbol of authority, wisdom, or piety; the visual archeology of otherwise vanished bookbinding styles, reading practices, and study spaces; and the re-imagining of the physicality of the codex through digital means. The event will also mark the public launch at Penn Libraries of the Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art (BASIRA) project, an innovative, public-access web database of thousands of depictions of books in artwork produced between about 1300 and 1600 CE. The database, like the symposium itself, aims to engage historians of religion, literacy, art, music, language, and private life, as well as book artists, conservators, and interested members of the public. The symposium is organized in partnership with the Rare Book Department of the Free Library of Philadelphia (view on map).

The program will begin Thursday evening, November 16, 5:00 pm (Location TBD), at the Free Library of Philadelphia in the Rare Book Department, with a reception and keynote address by Jeffrey Hamburger, Kuno Francke Professor of German Art & Culture, Harvard University. The symposium will continue November 17-18 at the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts (view on map).

The symposium will be held in person with an option to join virtually. Registration and program details will be available on September 1, 2023.

Other speakers include:

  • Allie Alvis, Punch Type Matrix
  • Georgios Boudalis, Museum of Byzantine Culture, Thessaloniki
  • Alberto Campagnolo, Université Catholique de Louvain
  • Sonja Drimmer, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Barbara Williams Ellertson, Independent Scholar and SIMS
  • Emine Fetvacı, Boston College
  • Devin Fitzgerald, Yale University
  • Denva Gallant, University of Delaware
  • Beatrice Kitzinger, Princeton University
  • Thomas Rainer, University of Zurich
  • Yael Rice, Amherst College
  • Lucy Freeman Sandler, New York University
  • Dominique Stutzmann, Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes
  • James Watts, Syracuse University
  • Sabina Zonno, University of Southern California

Event Series

Featured image: Image: Detail of Saint Jerome and a Canon Praying, Simon Marmion, ca. 1475-1480. Philadelphia Museum of Art, John G. Johnson Collection, 1917, Inv. 1329.