Book talk and open house: The Production and Meaning of Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles on March 11, 2019

March 5, 2019
Kathleen M Smith
Image from the facsimile of the Divina Commedia Parigi-Imola (to be published by Castel Guelfo: Imago, 2021).

Stanford Libraries has a sizable collection of facsimiles of rare manuscripts that are used in research and teaching. Just to name a few, we have facsimiles of unique manuscripts such as the Book of Kells, the Codex Manesse,  Boccaccio's Decameron, and many more. One of the major advantages of a facsimile, as opposed to a partial reproduction, is the attention paid to detail and the quality of the colors in an effort to mimic the original as closely as possible. Manuscript facsimiles have proven invaluable for both research and teaching, frequently in combination with original materials and digital facsimiles.

We also have a set of replicas of medieval and early modern eyeglasses and reading aids that are instrumental in understanding how the act of reading and engaging with the text changed over time. These reproductions are based on objects in museums that are dated from the 13th to the 18th century. However, our eyeglass replicas have intact lenses and can be used without fear of damage, unlike surviving artifacts that are often highly fragile.

The advantage of having these high-quality manuscript facsimiles and museum-quality replicas is that they provide a stronger sense of how the reading experience has changed over time. In combination with original materials and digitized images, we can engage in new discussions and dialogues about the ways in which we interact with manuscripts and our expectations of the past.

However, facsimiles are fascinating in their own right! To learn more, please join us for an upcoming Book Talk and Open House on Monday, March 11, 2019. Giovanni Scorcioni, bookseller and publishing consultant specializing in facsimile editions of medieval manuscripts, will be presenting recently-published and upcoming facsimiles at this Open House. In his talk, he will address the nature and definition of medieval manuscript facsimiles; the materials and techniques used in their production; how facsimiles have changed in the last 50-100 years and their role in an increasingly digital environment; and the underlying factors that affect which facsimiles are created and why.

Mark your calendars!

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