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The 16th Century Technology Revolution
JMU Fine Arts Collection includes a number of significant works commonly found
in university museum collections. The manuscripts and prints were part of a
bequest of the late Dr. John Sawhill, who taught Latin, Greek and
German at JMU from 1927 to 1957. The manuscripts and prints are particularly
relevant to the study of Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque arts. In
late November 2002, Dr. Kay Arthur, Professor of Art History and Julia
Curator of JMU's Fine Arts Collection identified items for a special
display in Carrier Library Lobby. Dr. Arthur researched and provided
details on each item of the exhibit.
These items are normally stored in the Special Collections room of Carrier Library, where
temperature, humidity and light are carefully controlled for preservation. The
exhibit in Carrier Library Lobby was limited to 4 weeks, and exhibited
behind UV-film to minimize exposure to UV- light. Photographs and brief description of these manuscripts and prints are available
for viewing on the web Special Collections Manuscripts under the title
Sawhill, J.A. Collections,
Series 2a and 2b.
from a French Gothic Biblia Sacra demonstrate the typical form of
manuscript in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. Manuscripts were
hand-written by scribes; the style of writing in JMU’s leaves is
tentatively identified as “Gothic litteralis textualis.”
The demand for manuscripts grew dramatically in the later
fourteenth century as a wealthier middle class sought to purchase their
own prayer books. Paris was the capital of manuscript production with numerous individual workshops and illuminators who were both male and
female. This example shows an ordinary text page with the red and blue
calligraphic flourishes around initials beginning a new chapter.
Dr. Kay Arthur)
most important pieces in the collection are pages from Hartmann Schedel’s Liber
Chronicarum (1493), also known as the Nuremberg Chronicle.This has been called “the most ambitious publishing project of the
century.” The text consists of a comprehensive history of the world (as they
knew it). Nuremberg, in Northern Germany, was the center of the new art of
printing. Beginning in the 1470’s local book publishers hired artists to
illustrate their texts with woodblock prints. Michael Wolgemut (Albrecht
Durer’s teacher) and Wilhelm Pleydenwurf supposedly used 645 blocks for the
over 1800 illustrations which illustrated the Nuremberg Chronicle.
JMU’s pages display various Catholic popes, saints, Roman Emperors, and famous
Renaissance scholars, such as the Florentine humanist Poggio Bracciolino.
(text: Dr. Kay Arthur)
|The pages from the German edition (1548) of
Vitruvius’s De Architectura, are of great interest both
historically and artistically. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio (c. 70-25 b.c.) was
a Roman architect who wrote a handbook on architecture, which was a major
source of inspiration for Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical
architects. The original Latin text was not illustrated, so Renaissance
printers commissioned new woodcut illustrations based on verbal
descriptions in the text. This page, probably from chapter VIII on water,
illustrates a waterwheel and a machine that has been identified
tentatively as a version of Archimedes’ screw. Its design can be
compared with similar ones in other early books such as Fra Giocondo’s
edition (Venice, 1511).
(text: Dr. Kay Arthur)
Two other collections from the JMU Fine Arts collection are on permanent loan
and display in Carrier Library. The Study Center for Art and World Cultures
located in old main lobby on the first floor of Carrier Library and Images of
the Ancient World, Greek and Roman coins, first floor lobby.
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