Monday, June 8, 2009

Rare Emory Books Part of New York City Exhibition

Two of Emory University's libraries are contributing items to a New York City exhibition showcasing 16th century Biblical illustrations this summer, and the exhibition will come to Emory's Carlos Museum in the fall.

“Scripture for the Eyes: Bible Illustration in Netherlandish Prints of the Sixteenth Century” is the first major exhibition to explore the form, function and meaning of printed biblical images produced in the 16th-century Low Countries.

The exhibition runs June 5–Sept. 27, 2009, at the Museum of Biblical Art (MOBIA) in New York City, and Oct. 17, 2009–Jan. 24, 2010 at the Carlos Museum on the Emory campus in Atlanta.

Emory's Pitts Theology Library contributed five of the eight volumes comprising the Antwerp Polyglot Bible, published in the 16th century by Christopher Plantin, one of the greatest early printers, says Pat Graham, director of Pitts.

Richly colored woodcuts

“In addition to its scholarly value for biblical studies, this particular copy with its richly colored woodcuts is a stunning work of art and a suitable tribute to this pioneer [Plantin] of 16th-century book illustration,” says Graham.

The Antwerp Polyglot Bible is perhaps the most significant item loaned by Emory, says Walter Melion, Asa Griggs Candler Professor of Art History at Emory and co-curator of the exhibit. Polyglot means it was published in several different languages, such as Latin, Hebrew, Greek, Syriac and Aramaic, side by side in the same Bible.

“We have one of the most beautiful copies,” says Melion. “It’s a grand folio book, so it’s very large. And several of the volumes have exquisite pictorial title pages. Ours is really extraordinary because they have several pages that are hand-colored.”

Other rare works from Emory

Two other books are from Emory's Manuscript, Archives, and Rare Books Library (MARBL): "Humanae Salutis Monumenta" (“Monuments of Human Salvation”), published in 1571, and "Septem Psalmi Davidici," a bound series of prints depicting the seven penitential psalms, published prior to 1604. The libraries are also contributing digital images of a few pages from the books for a catalog to accompany the items on display.

Melion says "Humanae Salutis Monumenta" by Benito Arias Montano is the first Catholic scriptural emblem book – a collection of images and descriptive text.

“Emblems were a way of thinking through topics by meditating on the complex dynamics of a mutually interactive image and text,” he says. “This is one of the very earliest emblem books. It’s a very rare thing indeed, and it’s in beautiful condition.”

Antwerp engravings

"Septem Psalmi Davidici" features prints created by Hieronymus Wierix, considered among the greatest engravers of the time. Each scene is surrounded by an elaborate border composed of the entire text of the penitential psalms, says Melion.

“They are seven of the finest engravings produced in Antwerp in the 16th century in terms of technique and skillful execution,” says Melion. “They’re also very inventive in the way they explain the penitential psalms and relate them to the Passion of Christ.”

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