UNCG Campus Weekly

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View illuminated manuscripts, through end of May

Book of Hours--Scythe

Book of Hours

Recognized as the first major book printed with mass-produced moveable type, the 1454 Gutenberg Bible is a good starting point for UNCG Special Collections and University Archives’ “Wondrous Works: Illuminated Manuscripts from Three Continents.The exhibition, which is on display in Jackson Library’s Hodges Reading Room through the end of May, displays illuminated manuscripts and printed books made during or shortly after the invention of moveable type.

“It sets the tone,” said Assistant Dean for Special Collections and University Archives Keith Gorman, as he explained how the moveable type featured on the Gutenberg Bible changed the bookmaker’s craft throughout the world.

According to Gorman, “Wondrous Works” aims to exhibit the artistic trends in illuminated works and the interplay between cultures. Illuminations, or illustrated pages, often depict flora and cultural artifacts specific to the region and time period that each book was made. Featuring illuminated works from three continents gives the viewer a sense of the rich cultural trade of bookmaking.

Gorman more thoroughly explains the exhibit in a blog post:

Special Collections and University Archives at UNCG’s University Libraries has mounted an exhibit highlighting the rich tradition of illuminated manuscripts in Europe, India, Persia, Ethiopia, and Armenia. By presenting these works within a global perspective, the exhibition Wondrous Works: Illuminated Manuscripts From Three Continents” strives to broaden our understanding of the history of the book, the influence of artistic trends on illuminated works, and the cultural contact and cultural exchange amongst peoples.

Working with local bookman Norman Smith and his collection of rare works, the exhibit features manuscripts that were created during or shortly after the invention of movable type in 1454.  Despite the widespread adoption of print technology, the exhibit reveals a continued interest and market for illuminated works well into the 1600s.

The term manuscript comes from the Latin word for “handwritten.” Before the invention of movable type, all books had to be written out by hand. It was a time-consuming and labor-intensive process that could take months or years to complete.  Some manuscripts were made even more special by the process of “illumination.” This term comes from the Latin word for “lit up” or “enlightened” and refers to the use of bright colors and precious metals to embellish initial letters or to portray whole scenes.

The Hodges Reading Room is open to the public from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.