Vernacular Manuscripts of the Middle Ages will go on Exhibit at Les Enluminures NY
New York—Les Enluminures announces the exhibition, “Talking at the Court, on the Street, in the Bedroom: Vernacular Manuscripts of the Middle Ages.” February 23rd to March 16th, Tuesday through Saturday, 10 am to 6 pm. Opening and Reception: Thursday, February 22nd, 6 pm to 8 pm.
The thirty-six manuscripts included in this exhibition provide viewers unique access to the authentic, spontaneous vision of people in medieval France, Italy, Germany, the Low Countries, and Britain. As award-winning author Christopher de Hamel writes in the introduction, “There is one way in which manuscripts are different from all other works of art: they can talk … Shared language is the basis of all communication, and manuscripts can actually speak to us.”
Of course, Latin was the language of those who aspired to literacy, and it was the language of the Church. Most people today think of the Middle Ages as a time when cloistered monks wrote and read only in now-obscure languages. But, what many do not realize is that by the thirteenth and fourteenth century (and certainly well before Columbus discovered America in 1492), numerous books became available in the everyday languages spoken “at the court, on the street, and in the bedroom.” This exhibition focuses on just such manuscripts, and we find that they were written for all sorts of people at diverse levels of society, not only the privileged aristocracy, but doctors, artisans, townspeople, women, the clergy, and the lay devout.
For example, giving advice to widows, a translator puts Saint Jerome’s famous letters into French in a unique copy probably for a high-born woman. She is pictured in the book. Toiling in the Italian metal industry in towns, metalworkers can follow instructions on minting gold and silver coins in their own language. The manuscript is on paper in simple, yet readable script. Fancifully dressed carnival revelers cavort through the streets of medieval Nuremberg throwing fireworks amidst floats and even an occasional elephant. The German text celebrates the sponsoring families of the event. The Founder and President of Les Enluminures (and medievalist), Sandra Hindman reminisces “I have worked on vernacular manuscripts all my life and they are closest to my heart. Like the experience of reading a good book today, vernacular manuscripts offer an adventure into an unknown world that brings to life people, places, and events of long ago.”
Come join us in experiencing the Middle Ages through our manuscripts.
23 East 73rd Street, 7th foor Penthouse
New York, New York 10021
Tel. 212 717 7273
Catalogue: “Shared Language: Vernacular Manuscripts of the Middle Ages” by Laura Light, introduction Christopher de Hamel. Available for purchase as of February 15: $35.
Image: Carnival reveler, holding a firework, with an elephant in the margin. Schembart (“hiding beard”) Carnival Book. In German, illuminated manuscript on paper. Germany (Nuremberg), c. 1540-1550. 64 pen and ink with watercolor drawings, 22 additional pen and ink drawings.