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History of the Book

The History of the Book Lecture series, established in 1993 through the efforts of Richard and Mary Rouse, provides an annual venue for internationally recognized authorities on medieval and Renaissance books to present their expertise at UCLA. The lecture's focus alternates each year between medieval manuscripts and Renaissance books. Among the topics explored in past lectures were: book and manuscript illustration, the development of printing, early book printers and sellers, the book trade, and medieval and Renaissance book and manuscript collections.

The History of the Book Lecture is funded entirely through the generosity of donors. Contributions are always welcome.

    Previous speakers include:
  • Elizabeth Morrison (Curator, Department of Manuscripts, J. Paul Getty Museum)
    “Searching for the Origins of Secular Imagery in Thirteenth-Century France”
    The mid-thirteenth century in northern France saw an explosion in the production of books in the vernacular. Most art historians have seen the illumination of romances and histories of the period as a rather thoughtless adaptation of sacred painting models. Dr. Morrison explored how artists adapted and ultimately broke away from their religiously inspired beginnings in order to create new formats and compositions more suited to their needs and the needs of a new breed of manuscript, the illuminated secular book. Presented January 29, 2010
  • William Noel (Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books at the Walters Art Museum, and Director of the Archimedes Palimpsest Project)
    "Archimedes in Bits: The Digital Presentation of a Write-Off"
    After ten years of conservation, imaging, and research, the project to retrieve the erased texts from a thirteenth-century Byzantine palimpsest -the unique source for three treatises by the ancient Greek mathematician Archimedes-is nearing completion. The results have been extraordinary, changing scholarly perception of Archimedes' contribution to the western tradition of mathematical thought, and revealing entirely new texts from the ancient world. Presented October 17, 2008
  • James Carley (Professor of English, York University, Toronto )
    “ ‘A notable and famous librarie in the Archbishop of Canterburies house’: John Whitgift, Richard Bancroft, and the Foundation of Lambeth Palace Library”
    Much has been written about the collection bequeathed to Corpus Christi College, Cambridge by Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1575), and the library set up in Oxford by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1602, but the equally impressive library established at Lambeth Palace by Richard Bancroft, archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1610) has not received the same attention. By the terms of his will, Bancroft bequeathed his collection—more than 470 manuscripts and almost 5,600 printed books—‘unto my successors and to the Arch-Bishops of Canterbury successively for ever’ and he made very strict conditions for its preservation. Under his successor George Abbot a catalogue was ‘accurately and exquisitely’ produced, King James himself being directly involved. In spite of various vicissitudes, including a direct hit to the Palace in the second World War, the collection remains virtually intact, many of the books in their original bindings. In this talk, Professor Carley will discuss the highly revealing preface to the 1612 catalogue, describe the original layout of the library, examine Bancroft’s sources—many of his books came from his predecessor John Whitgift—and look at representative examples. As the eighteenth-century antiquary John Bagford observed, it was, and is, a ‘well furnisht library’, full of unexpected treasures. Presented May 13, 2008.
  • Mary Rouse (former editor, Viator)
    “Christine de Pizan and the Chapelet des Vertus
    The sixteenth lecture in the series is presented by Mary Rouse who has co-authored five books and over sixty articles on medieval florilegia and medieval libraries, and on the production and use of manuscripts in the later Middle Ages. She is an authority on the book culture of medieval Paris and, more recently, of renaissance Paris. Her current research has focused on the history of a medieval French florilegium known as the Chapelet des Vertus “Garland of Virtue” and the use made of it by Christine de Pizan. As France’s first female essayist, Christine has become an industry in recent decades, especially with the growth of feminist studies. Her use of the Chapelet reveals a surprising and previously unrecognized aspect of Christine’s use of her sources, and demonstrates once again that the lady was, indeed, literate in Latin as well as French. The Chapelet is known in fourteen manuscripts. UCLA’s Charles E. Young Research Library has acquired one of only two manuscripts of this work now in North America. Presented November 29, 2007.
  • Father Justin Sinaites (Librarian, St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai, Egypt)
    Fr. Justin discussed the history of the library at St. Catherine's Monastery at Mt. Sinai and the current projects underway there to preserve its precious volumes, while also making them more accessible to scholars. Presented February 23, 2007.
  • Christopher Page (Faculty of English, Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge)
    “Copying Books in a Gradual Fashion, 1025-1125: The Wanderings of Two Monks and the Making of the Western Musical Tradition”
    Viewed in terms of other musical traditions in the world, it seems strange that Western musicians have, for so many centuries, played their music with their eyes fixed upon a sophisticated chart that tells them (much of) what they have to do when they perform. This chart is the musical staff, the five-line graph that, in its various forms, has done much to shape the history of Western music. But the stave is not a recent invention. Its roots lie with the science and musical practice of Italy in the first half of the eleventh century. It also owes much to the trauma that was distinctive to the Western and Latin Church, as revealed in the lives of two monks: one, the “inventor” of the system, and the other, its determined advocate in the face of considerable opposition. In his lecture, Dr. Page will explore this episode in the development of music notation. Dr. Page is both an authority on medieval English literature and a specialist in medieval music. He is founder and director of the instrumental and vocal ensemble “Gothic Voices.” Presented February 10, 2006.
  • Nigel F. Palmer (Professor of Medieval German, Oxford University)
    “Blockbooks and the Fifteenth-Century Media Revolution”
    A blockbook is a printed codex produced from relief-engraved wooden blocks (as distinct from movable type). In this lecture, Professor Palmer will examine the place of the blockbook in the media revolution that took place during the fifteenth century. Using examples from the collection at Oxford University, he will show how blockbooks relate not only to the manuscript codex (the “book”), but also to other media, such as posters. He will also describe the various experiments that were undertaken with this unusual printed material in order to assemble the pages into something with the outer appearance of a conventional book. The principal texts that will be used are the Apocalypse and the Biblia pauperum. Professor Palmer is an authority on medieval German language and literature. He has a special interest in blockbooks and their place in early printing history, and palaeography and codicology of the period 1100-1550. He is the author of numerous publications, including Zisterzienser und ihre Bücher. Die mittelalterliche Bibliotheksgeschichte von Kloster Eberbach im Rheingau (Regensburg, 1998), and the editor, with Christoph Gerhardt, of Das Münchner Gedicht von den 15 Zeichen vor dem Jüngsten Gericht (Berlin, 2002). Presented January 13, 2005.
  • Roger S. Wieck (Curator of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, The Pierpont Morgan Library)
    “Trial by Fleur : The Master of Walters 219 and the Tres Riches Heures
    In the early fifteenth century a precociously talented illuminator from Lombardy traveled to Paris, seeking employment. Frightening the establishment, he was railroaded out of town. The test he “failed” survives: did it influence the Très Riches Heures? Dr. Wieck is a world-renowned authority on medieval manuscript illumination. He has written extensively and published such works as Time Sanctified: the Book of Hours in Medieval Art (1988, 2001), Painted Prayers: the Book of Hours in Medieval and Renaissance Art (1997), and The Hours of Henry VIII: a Renaissance masterpiece by Jean Poyet (2000). Presented January 23, 2004.
  • Sylvia Huot (Pembroke College, Cambridge University)
    “Reading and Meditation in Late Medieval Devotional Manuscripts”
    Sylvia Huot, renowned for her expertise in the field of Medieval French literature, discusses devotional manuscripts used for the education and edification of both children and adults in fourteenth-century France. She will explore the ways that the process of reading became a basis for meditation, prayer, and self-scrutiny. Dr. Huot is Reader in Medieval French Literature and Fellow of Pembroke College, Cambridge University. She is the author of numerous books and articles, including From Song to Book: The Poetics of Writing in Old French Lyric and Lyrical Narrative Poetry (Cornell University Press, 1987), The Romance of the Rose and its Medieval Readers, (Cambridge University Press, 1993), and Allegorical Play in the Old French Motet: The Sacred and the Profane in Thirteenth-Century Polyphony, (Stanford University Press, 1997). She is presently completing work on Madness in Medieval French Literature: Identities Found and Lost, forthcoming from Oxford University Press. Presented April 4, 2003.
  • Christopher de Hamel (Donnelley Fellow Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)
    “The Imaginary Library of Archbishop Theodore”
    According to Bede, Theodore of Tarsus, archbishop of Canterbury in 668-690, brought a collection of books to England on his arrival. None survived, although there are traces of what kind of manuscripts they may have been. But nine hundred years after Theodore, a later archbishop of Canterbury, Matthew Parker (1504-75), set himself the task of finding the lost library. He assembled a group of exotic manuscripts which he was convinced were the actual books of Theodore. He published an account of them in 1572. Parker was wrong—spectacularly wrong, in fact, for most of the books were of no antiquity whatsoever—but his search for Theodore’s library, and the way in which he allowed himself to be so deluded, reveal a great deal about Renaissance book collecting and the difficulties of dating manuscripts during the English Reformation. Presented January 25, 2002.

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