In conjunction with the 9th Annual Schoenberg Symposium of the same theme, Penn Libraries’ fall exhibit, “Reactions: Medieval/Modern” explores the many and varied ways that people have reacted to and acted upon manuscripts from the Middle Ages up to the 21st Century. “Reactions: Medieval/Modern” will be on display August 25-December 16, 2016 in the Goldstein Gallery on the sixth floor of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. A full-color, illustrated companion volume exploring the themes of the exhibition will be available for purchase in late September. It includes an introduction by exhibition curator Dot Porter as well as essays by Bruce Holsinger, Erik Kwakkel, Kathryn M. Rudy, Michael Livingston, and Angela Bennett. 

The theme of “reactions” gives the viewer space to explore the many and varied ways that people have reacted to and acted upon manuscripts from the Middle Ages up to the present day. The reactions explored in the exhibit take many forms. They include the manipulation of physical objects through the marking up of texts, addition of illustrations, disbinding books (or rebinding fragments), as well as the manipulation of digital objects.

Exhibition curator Dot Porter admits that not all premodern book owners wrote in their books and not all modern artists look to medieval manuscripts for inspiration. According to Porter, “The value in examining the various ways that medieval and modern people have reacted to manuscripts is in developing an appreciation of these objects as more than simply bearers of information or beautiful things for us to enjoy.” Porter sees “Reactions: Medieval/Modern” as a celebration of visceral responses to physical objects, “a reminder that an object is not just the thing we have today, but a thing that has existed over time and been touched by so many hands and lives before it came to us, and will continue touching people long after we are gone.”

The 2016 Schoenberg Symposium begins Thursday evening, November 17, at the Free Library of Philadelphia, Parkway Central Library, with keynote speaker Michelle P. Brown, Professor Emerita of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London, and former Curator of Manuscripts at the British Library. The symposium continues, November 18-19, at the Penn Libraries’ Kislak Center of Special Collections, Rare Books, and Manuscripts, with papers and workshops that delve into various aspects of fragmentation and reconstitution.

For more information on the exhibit and to register for the 2016 Schoenberg symposium, please visit: