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Scripting the Sacred: Medieval Latin Manuscripts

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Scripting the Sacred: Medieval Latin Manuscripts

Scripting the Sacred, an exhibition of Western European manuscripts and fragments, showcases the medieval experience of reading. The exhibition is on display in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda of Green Library through March 17, 2013.

Studying these texts involved not only the absorption of knowledge, but also practices of interpretation, identification, and devotion. By focusing on the exercise of reading, this exhibition explores "scripting" in diverse forms: scribal activity, scripted performances, and inscribed divine things (res divinae).

Throughout the Middle Ages, the Bible remained the paradigmatic text for reading and studying. The exhibited biblical items highlight different preferences pertaining to legibility. Indeed, scribes designed manuscripts to guide, assist, and sometimes challenge readers, as medieval versions of biblical commentary and patristic works exemplify. The liturgical genres on display contain written and visual markers that instruct readers in the proper performance of the Mass, music, and specific feast days. The text portion of the liturgy helped stage the clergy's ceremonial duties. Liturgical fragments with musical notation assisted ritual actors in the memorization of stylized speech. Both components show how customized manuscripts promoted reading aloud. Miniature prayer books and books of hours demonstrate a late medieval trend toward privatized and personalized lay devotion.

Additional materials on exhibition include fine facsimiles from the Art & Architecture Library portraying the national origins of late antique and medieval scripts and illustration, fragments of ancient Egyptian papyri highlighting the gradual transition from papyrus to parchment and from scroll to codex, and a selection of codices and fragments–mainly recovered from the bindings of early printed books–from Stanford's paleography collections.

Far from being a static process, reading in the Middle Ages necessitated a dynamic relationship between manuscripts and their readers, at a much more deliberate and contemplative pace than most modern reading. As we encounter radical changes in our own digital age, this exhibit encourages us to think critically about how we interact with the text, and how these interactions condition the way we acquire knowledge.

Scripting the Sacred is curated by Kathryn Dickason, Ph.D. candidate in Religious Studies and David A. Jordan, assistant director for library development and associate curator for paleographical materials.

Exhibit cases are illuminated Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m. The gallery is accessible whenever Green Library is open; hours vary with the academic schedule. To confirm library hours, call 650-723-0931 or go to http://library.stanford.edu/libraries_collections/hours_locations.html

For a map of campus and transportation information, go to http://www.stanford.edu/dept/visitorinfo/plan/maps.html

NOTE: The exhibition is free and open to the public; first-time visitors and those without Stanford ID must register at the entrance to Green Library before entering the building.

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Exhibits Manager & Designer, Special Collections

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