Main content

'Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries' Opens February 10

Posted on


Monica Fonorow, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, 215.746.7769

The University of Pennsylvania Libraries is pleased to present Making the Renaissance Manuscript: Discoveries from Philadelphia Libraries, on display in the Goldstein Family Gallery on the sixth floor of the Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center from February 10 to May 19, 2020. An opening celebration will take place on Tuesday, February 11, with an exhibition tour, reception, and lecture by curator Nicholas Herman.

“Ever since starting at Penn, I’ve dreamed about exhibiting some of the Philadelphia region’s lesser-known treasures to a broad audience,” says Herman, Curator of Manuscripts for the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) at the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Making the Renaissance Manuscript stems from the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis (BiblioPhilly) project, the joint effort of fifteen regional libraries to digitize and make freely available 160,000 pages of European medieval and early modern codices. BiblioPhilly constitutes the largest regional online collection of medieval manuscripts in the United States, all available via Penn’s open-access database.

The exhibition includes loans from BiblioPhilly partners Bryn Mawr College, the College of Physicians of Philadelphia, the Free Library of Philadelphia, Lehigh University, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Temple University, and the Rosenbach Museum and Library, in addition to a book from La Salle University and an additional loan from a private collector.

“The manuscripts presented in this exhibition extend far beyond the rarefied atmosphere of the Renaissance studiolo,” explains Herman, noting that Making the Renaissance Manuscript gives precedent to “everyday” documents over more elaborate texts. The exhibit features manuscripts, cuttings, and incunables dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

A first section, "Crafting the Codex," will introduce the visitor to the patrons and collectors that were so often the genesis of these books, while conveying the role of humanist scribes and decorators in establishing aesthetic conventions that continue to this day. A middle section, "Showcasing Salvation," will vividly demonstrate the astonishing variety of artistic and codicological solutions devised to illustrate the increasingly complex rituals of private and public devotion. The final and largest section, entitled "Transmitting Knowledge," will showcase the intellectual world of the Renaissance by examining the re-birth of classical scholarship, the rise of a liberal arts curriculum, the growth of the mercantile class, and the exploration of new geographic frontiers.

Most of the nearly 90 objects to be displayed have neither been exhibited nor extensively studied before now. A fully illustrated scholarly catalogue, written by the curator, will accompany the exhibition. ­­­

Visitor Information

Making the Renaissance Manuscript

On exhibit February 10-May 19, 2020

Goldstein Family Gallery, Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
Van Pelt-Dietrich Library, Sixth floor
3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA

Gallery hours: Monday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Wednesday, 10am-8pm

For further information: 215.898.7088;;

Opening event:

Free and open to the public (please show photo ID at entrance).