Books in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

April 19–June 24, 2024

A leatherbound volume with a very intricately embossed cover and two ornate metal hinges on the right side.
MS. 21. Hauprecht Zapff, compilation of excerpts from Sebastian Franck’s Chronica, in German [Southern Moravia (Nové Mlýny), ca. 1595/6]

Vassar College has been collecting medieval and Renaissance manuscripts since its earliest days. Over the course of many decades it has developed a collection of nearly 200 codices, fragments, and leaves. Most of these manuscripts are housed in the Archives & Special Collections Library, though several reside in the Loeb Art Center. Together these materials support Vassar’s pedagogical tradition of teaching and learning by “going to the source.”

The current exhibition Books in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is drawn from holdings in the Library, including the Nicholas B. Scheetz Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. It highlights a small sampling of Vassar’s treasures and is complemented by paintings in the Art Center which feature books. When selecting items to display, an important goal was to bring out the diversity of Vassar’s collection. The materials in the exhibition span a wide period of time, were produced in various places, in several languages, on different topics, and for a variety of purposes.

Curatorial work took place as a group project in the course Detectives in the Archive: Reading Medieval and Renaissance Texts, held in the fall of 2023. For decades this course has provided opportunities for students to work directly with original sources. Here students chose items to study, researched them, discussed them with classmates, and wrote the captions which appear in the cases.

Funding provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Nicholas B. Scheetz Charitable Trust.

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