Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries (2020)

Renaissance cover 01172020

By Nicholas Herman

This exhibition catalogue examines 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 examines 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.

The catalogue opens with a Foreword by Constantina Constantinou and Will Noel and an Introduction, “To Hold the Renaissance in Our Hands,” by curator Nicholas Herman. An essay, “Material Present Collecting Late Medieval and Early Modern Objects in (and around) Philadelphia,” provides a detailed look at the history of the collections represented in the exhibition.

The first section of the exhibition catalogue, “Crafting the Codex,” introduces the reader to the patrons and collectors who 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,” vividly demonstrates 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,” showcases the intellectual world of the Renaissance by examining the rebirth 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 and catalogue 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.

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Reactions: Medieval/Modern (2016)


Edited by Dot Porter

Catalog from the 2016 exhibition curated by Dot Porter. This publication explores
the many and varied ways that people have reacted to, and acted upon, manuscripts from the Middle Ages up to today. 108 pages, paperback.

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Taxonomies of Knowledge: Information and Order in Medieval Manuscripts (2015)


Edited by Emily Steiner and Lynn Ransom

The essays in Taxonomies of Knowledge examine how medieval manuscripts functioned taxonomically, as systems through which knowledge was organized, classified, and used. From the place of the medieval library in manuscript culture to the rise and fall of the twelfth-century commentary tradition, from the employment of maps and diagrams to the complexities of devotional practice, and from the role of poetics in manuscript design to the organization and use of encyclopedias and lexicons, the contributors argue that how information was presented was nearly as important as the information itself. By exploring the relationship between medieval knowledge and its transmission, the volume sheds lights on how the past shapes our understanding of information culture today.

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From Mulberry Leaves to Silk Scrolls: New Approaches to the Study of Asian Manuscript Traditions (2015)


Edited by Justin Thomas McDaniel and Lynn Ransom

Asian manuscripts, as the contributors to From Mulberry Leaves to Silk Scrolls demonstrate, contain much more than the semantic meaning of the words they reproduce. The ten essays collected here look closely at a wide variety of manuscript traditions with a special focus on both their history and the ways in they can be studied through digital technology to make the cataloguing, comparative analysis, and aesthetic appreciation of them more accessible to scholars and students.

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A Checklist of Manuscripts in the Lawrence J. Schoenberg collection (2013)


By Lynn Ransom

This handlist (PDF format) provides quick reference to all of the manuscripts in the Schoenberg Collection. Each item is listed with its LJS number. Items marked with an * appear in the 2013 exhibition A Legacy Inscribed: The Schoenberg Collection of Manuscripts.

An updated version of the checklist, compiled by Amey Hutchins and Nicholas Herman, was released in 2018.

Transformation of Knowledge: Early Manuscripts from the Collection of Lawrence J. Schoenberg (2006)


By Crofton Black

A catalog, with color plates and descriptions, of the manuscripts in the Schoenberg collection. Text written by Lawrence J. Schoenberg, edited by Crofton black, with a preface by Christopher De Hamel. 160 pages, paperback.

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