Illuminating Life exhibition catalogue cover

Illuminating Life catalogue chapter published

Illuminating Life exhibition catalogue cover

The exhibition catalogue for Illuminating Life: Manuscript Pages in the Middle Ages has been published by the University of Guelph, and it includes my chapter, “Commemorating Community: The St. Kunibert Office of the Dead.”

My chapter looks at a fifteenth-century Office of the Dead from the church of St Kunibert in Cologne, Germany, and how the text was used to honour the beloved dead of the community.

The catalogue is freely available for download from the University of Guelph’s Atrium.

From abstract for the catalogue:

The manuscripts of the Middle Ages are the source of lively and enduring interest. Their popularity has persisted well into the age of print and digital media, where they continue to command a lasting imaginative appeal. To turn their pages is to make tactile contact with the past. It evokes a sense of continuity and invites comparison. In their pages we find traces of lives long gone—the wear and tear of frequent thumbing, annotations in the margins, obituaries attached to the text—and signs of their importance to their owners, for whom manuscripts were prized and often personalized possessions.

In all cases, they were written (scriptum) by hand (manū), and many were illuminated, or embellished with gold and precious pigments and adorned with carefully wrought initials and illustrations. Even with the advent of print and movable type during the fifteenth century, many of these decorated elements remained, evidencing the longstanding and important connection between books and material culture. Of the manuscripts and printed books on display here, many are illuminated, some lavishly, while others are more standard and less ornate editions. Yet they all brim with signs of use and cast an illuminating light on life in the later Middle Ages and beyond.

I’m so glad to see this catalogue published with student work under the editorship of Brittney Payer and Alex Wall, with additional thanks to Dr Susannah Ferreira, who lead two semesters of courses using these Medieval texts and Melissa McAfee, the Special Collections librarian who organized access to this collection and helped guide our research.

Download Illuminating Life: Manuscript Pages of the Middle Ages here.

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