“In The Manuscript Margins”—VFL Exhibition Opening

In the Manuscript Margins: Notes and Decoration by Scribes, Illuminators, and Readers
An exhibition in Pius XII Memorial Library, Vatican Film Library
26 August 2016–2017 January 31

The Knights of Columbus Vatican Film Library—part of Special Collections in the Saint Louis University Libraries—announces the opening of an exhibition of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, “In the Manuscript Margins.”

This exhibition takes a look at the manuscript margins and some of the marks—texts and images—that can be encountered there. The margins—defined as the blank space around or between text columns—are handy places to add accessory texts or decoration, as well as providing space for scribes and readers to make corrections or notes. The traditional format of the manuscript page, with its widest margins at the outer and lower sides, was certainly devised with this in mind.

The exhibition cases present two different aspects of marginal additions. Case 1 is devoted to marks and text  added by scribes and readers during the production or use of the manuscript. In a thirteenth-century English Bible (MS 56), for example, the margins bear corrections by the scribe, as well as notes made by a reader, proving that this Bible was studied closely.

MS 56 crop

Case 2 deals mainly with marginal decoration executed by illuminators, usually comprising painted or penwork borders alongside the text, which may be enriched with floral or zoomorphic motifs. A book of hours leaf (MS 35b verso) is decorated with a double vertical bar along the left side of the column, topped by a two-legged, winged dragon with a feathery hat.

MS 35b verso

Additionally, a legal document granting a piece of land to a monastery (MS 33) bears the armorial seal of the knight who donated the land.

MS 33 crop

The exhibition is free and open to the public and will be on display Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, through 31 January 2017 in the Vatican Film Library of Pius XII Memorial Library (Room 105). For further information, contact Susan L’Engle, Assistant Director of the Vatican Film Library, at 314-977-3084, lengles@slu.edu.

Erica Lauriello

About Erica Lauriello

Erica Lauriello is a former staff member in the Vatican Film Library.

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