Ancient manuscripts are an art form. The most well made and cared for specimens are the ones that have survived since the times when they were popular media. Before printing presses made books and pamphlets commonplace among us, the hand-written and artistically designed one-of-a-kind editions were all we had. Clearly with only the rich able to buy them, many people had to go from word of mouth and memorable story. Is it any wonder that stories with layers of meaning were used to pass information through the generations when books were so difficult to produce?
The Getty Museum in California is currently exhibiting a sizable collection of preserved books from pre-printing days. A Passion For Collecting Manuscripts aims to excite and inspire visitors with the wonders of the medieval technique and product. Known for regularly displaying a handful of their vast collection of Middle-Age and Renaissance manuscripts, their specialist curator Elizabeth Morrison worked alongside chief curator Aleia McDaniel to uncover a much more intensive spread of the available work to explore.
The museum have been collating information and documenting their collection of around 225 individual manuscripts from between 500 and 1500 AD in order to put the archive online. By verifying the lineage of ownership and the origin of the original works and highlighting the expert curatorship at the museum, Getty hopes to validate their rightful ownership as well as make everything publicly available for everyone. The exhibition coincides with the project and aims to attract everyone with an interest in such marvellous things.
By highlighting not only the manuscripts themselves, books written by hand and individually bound by skilled artisans, the process of collecting and preserving these precious items is also brought to our attention. Because of the dedicated work of capable individuals who can afford to acquire and preserve the specimens to institutions and museums who can provide public information along with the objects on display, the manuscripts that still survive are being kept as safe as possible. Perhaps it’s necessary for more people to adopt this hobby, or aspire to one day, if we want to ensure future generations can find out about how our ancestors used to think and communicate.
Visit the Getty Museum Manuscripts online
Recommended read: Masterpieces of the J. Paul Getty Museum: Illuminated Manuscripts
Via - Fine Books Magazine
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