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Early Books Lecture Series XI: Talks ponder art, renaissance gardens and natural history in University Libraries’ medieval texts

<p>Detail of image from <em>Die Wenzelsbibel, v. I: Genesis and Exodus</em>, 1390 / Special Collections</p>

Detail of image from Die Wenzelsbibel, v. I: Genesis and Exodus, 1390 / Special Collections

Date: March 11, 2014

Location:   Special Collections

Contact: Bob Diaz


Special Collections hosts the Early Books Lecture Series XI, an annual lecture series where University of Arizona scholars explore the treasure trove of medieval texts held by the University Libraries. In this 11th year of the lecture series, professors of German Studies and English will give their audiences new insights into centuries-old historic texts.

The evening lectures will be held on three Tuesdays in April. All lectures are held in Special Collections and are free and open to the public. The schedule for the Early Books Lecture Series is:

April 1, 6 – 8 p.m.
“Wenzeslas Bible: The Triumph and Glory of Late Medieval Book Production. Art, Religion, and Literature in One Manuscript” with Albrecht Classen, Professor, UA Department of German Studies

While the German King Wenceslaus (1361-1419) experienced a very troubled reign (1376-1400), he worked hard throughout his life to gain highest respect as a patron of the arts. He was an avid collector of most sumptuous manuscripts and competed in this regard with contemporary French dukes. One of the most glorious illustrated bibles ever created in the Middle Ages was the one produced for him, sometime between 1390 and 1400. While the biblical text imposed rather rigid limits on the thematic range of those illustrations, the artists delved into a wide range of options available to them to reflect on everyday life. This Wenceslaus Bible demonstrates what some scholars have called 'the glorious Middle Ages.' There is nothing of the 'dark Middle Ages' to be seen here.

April 15, 6 – 8 p.m.
“Secrets of the Renaissance Garden” with Frederick Kiefer, Professor, UA Department of English

The renaissance garden works its magic by combining greenery and masonry, statues and fountains. Italian garden designers found new ways to align art and nature, creating places where the civilized and the wild could coexist. One inspiration was a book published in 1499 and owned by Special Collections. Called The Dream of Poliphilo, this book contains nearly 200 illustrations, which generated new ideas about what gardens could be.

April 29, 6 – 8 p.m.
“20,000 Facts and Fables: Pliny’s Natural History in Early Modern Europe” with Thomas Willard, Associate Professor, UA Department of English

With thousands of details from hundreds of sources, the Naturalis Historia of Pliny the Elder was a standard reference work throughout the Middle Ages, lovingly copied wherever Latin was read. Based on hearsay as well as wide reading and personal research (the author died investigating the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79) it raised many questions about the marvels it reported and sometimes questioned. Featured in the talk are two early printed editions from the late 1400s and some English responses, including Sir Thomas Browne's study of errors in the famous book.