Rare Illuminated Manuscripts on Exhibit at Yale's Beinecke Library

A rich selection of 25 illuminated manuscripts from the collections of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale will be on display at the Beinecke from March 28 through April 11.

The manuscripts range chronologically from ordinances from the reigns of Charlemagne and his son, Louis Pious, written and decorated around 875 in France, to a scribal pattern book produced around 1517. The exhibition includes codices and fragments from France, Germany, Flanders, Italy, England, Spain and Austria.

Particular highlights of the exhibition include the Savoy Hours, a 14th-century book of hours produced for Blanche of Burgundy, only 26 leaves of which survive. Other liturgical works include the DeLévis Hours, with 16 miniatures painted in Paris in the early 15th century, and one of the few surviving medieval French translations of the Missal, which is lavishly illustrated. The Rothschild Canticles, one of the Beinecke’s most prized medieval volumes, is unusual both in its selection of mystical texts and the unconventional iconography of its miniatures.

The exhibition features three Psalters: one from East Anglia (early 14th century), one from the Abbey of San Zeno in Verona (ca. 1425) and a tiny Hebrew manuscript from 15th-century Italy.

Another manuscript contains Christine de Pizan’s “Livre des trois vertus” (Book of Three Virtues). Completed around 1408, the text outlines rules of conduct for women appropriate to their social stations. The Beinecke manuscript, produced in the third quarter of the 15th century, contains four large illuminations.

The history of the English royal family is recorded and depicted in a 28-foot scroll, pasted together from 15 pieces of parchment. The scroll, likely made in London or Westminster around 1446, traces the genealogy of England’s monarchs from Adam and Eve through Edward IV. Other secular manuscripts in the display are 15th-century treatises on horses and on falconry, the former written in Spain, the latter in Italy.

The exhibition at the Beinecke is held in conjunction with a conference honoring Walter Cahn, the Carnegie Professor Emeritus of the History of Art at Yale. The symposium, titled “Objects of Interpretation: Writing about Medieval Art,” is a tribute to Cahn’s distinguished career of teaching and scholarship. The conference takes place on March 28, 9 a.m -5:30 p.m. at the Institute of Sacred Music, Yale Divinity School, 409 Prospect St., and is sponsored by the Institute with the Beinecke Library, the Department of the History of Art and the Yale Medieval Studies Program. A reception at the Beinecke will follow the conference.

The conference is free and open to the public, but registration is encouraged; non-registrants will be admitted only as space permits. To register, contact Jenna-Claire Kemper 203-432-5180. Information about the conference is at the website www.yale.edu/ism (click on “events”)

“Illuminated Manuscripts from the Yale Collection: An exhibition in honor of Walter Cahn” was prepared by Marshall Kibbey, a Yale graduate student in the History of Art.

The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library is located at the corner of Wall and High streets. It is open Monday through Thursday, 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. (reading room and exhibitions); Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (reading room and exhibitions); Saturdays when Yale is in session, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (exhibitions only; reading room closed on Saturday).

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Media Contact

Dorie Baker: dorie.baker@yale.edu, 203-432-1345