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  • Monday, September 17, 2018 - 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Class of 1978 Pavilion in the Kislak Center, 6th Floor, Van Pelt-Dietrich Library

We will begin the year with a presentation by Nicholas Herman on “The Book-Shaped Object in Renaissance Europe.” Nick writes:

On January 1st, 1411, the young brothers Paul, Jean, and Herman de Limbourg presented their eminent patron, the Duke of Berry, with a singular gift: “a ‘counterfeit’ book made of wood, painted to resemble a book.” Though long vanished, this intriguing New Year’s gift has frequently been cited by scholars as evidence of the status and estimation of its makers. It has not, however, been considered in relation to a whole range of other deceptively book-like things that were produced in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, across Europe. In this talk I aim to explore the material valence and cultural specificity of the Limbourgs’ supposedly flippant gag gift by comparing it both to other objects described in household inventories and to a plethora of surviving items, ranging from drinking vessels, flower pots and handwarmers, to portrait diptychs, devotional pendants, musical instruments and cyphering gadgets, each of which was cleverly designed to resemble a book in some way. Such items have never before been discussed as a coherent class of objects, and considering them allows insights into the symbolic status of the book (which can alternately disguise, contain, reveal, protect...) on the cusp of its transformation from a luxury to a commonplace.

Nicholas Herman is Curator of Manuscripts at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, University of Pennsylvania Libraries. His teaching and research focus on manuscript illumination and its intersection with other media in fifteenth- and early-sixteenth-century Europe. Nicholas received his doctorate in 2014 from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, with a dissertation focusing on the French Renaissance court painter, Jean Bourdichon. Prior to arriving at Penn in 2016, he held fellowships at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Courtauld Institute of Art, and the Université de Montreal. From 2007 to 2010, he worked in the department of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts at the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. He has contributed to numerous catalog and exhibition projects in Europe and North America, and has published articles in Word and ImageBurlington Magazine, and Manuscripta. He serves as co-editor of the journal Manuscript Studies.

This event is open to the public and all are welcome. Those who do not hold University of Pennsylvania ID cards should bring another form of photo identification in order to enter the library building.



Sep. 17: Nicholas Herman (Penn): “The Book-Shaped Object in Renaissance Europe”

Sep. 24, 25, 27 - Rosenbach Lectures: Carlo Ginzburg (Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa): Fossils, Apes, Humans: A Chapter in the History of Science, Revisited

- Sep. 24: “Paleontology and Connoisseurship”

- Sep. 25: “Gods, Humans, Apes: Art History and Evolution”

- Sep. 27: “Medals and Shells: On Morphology and History, Once Again”

Oct. 1: Whitney Trettien (Penn): “Digital Book History”

Oct. 8: Priyasha Mukhopadhyay (Yale): “Unread: A History of the Book in Colonial South Asia”

Oct. 15: J.M. Duffin (Penn): “Draining the Swamp of Arcane Legal Text: Reclaiming the Geography of Eighteenth Century Philadelphia”

Oct. 22: Katie Chenoweth (Princeton): “Printers’ Devices, or, How French Got Its Accents”

Oct. 29: Sarah Guérin (Penn): “On Ivory, Wax, and Paint: New Insights on Devotional Booklets”

Nov. 5: Margo Natalie Crawford (Penn): “The Textual Production of a Shared Black Edge

Nov. 12: David Norbrook (Oxford): “‘But a copie’: Lucy Hutchinson’s Life in her Texts”

Nov. 19: Samantha Sommers (Ohio State): “Reading in Books”

Nov. 26: TBA

Dec. 3: Mitch Fraas (Penn): “Boilerplate: Documentation, Paperwork, and the Persistence of Form across the Early Modern and Modern Worlds”

Dec. 10: Arthur Kiron (Penn): “Hidden in Plain Sight: Christian Readers of Rabbinic Literature in the Colonial Americas”