BINGHAMTON, NY – Members of the public can view centuries-old books that are currently being used to teach students at Binghamton University.

The BU Art Museum presents an exhibition entitled “The Materiality of Medieval Manuscripts” until the end of the semester.

The collection includes 8 manuscripts from the 13th to 15th centuries, handwritten on parchment made from animal skins and decorated using specially cultivated plant pigments and semi-precious minerals.

A ninth book from 1506 was printed on parchment.

The exhibition focuses not so much on the content of the manuscripts, but on the artifacts themselves.

Marilynn Desmond, Emeritus Research Professor of English, curated the exhibit.

Desmond says the books required great craftsmanship to produce.

“These books have all been used for centuries. And they all bear marks of that use. And so they all have a story to tell which is a completely individual story because each manuscript is an absolutely unique artifact,” Desmond explains.

The books are loaned for the semester by the eminent antiquarian bookseller Les Enluminures of New York and are used by 8 or 9 classes in their studies.

Desmond says that because they are not considered to be of particularly high value, students are allowed to manipulate them so they can learn about their construction.

The exhibition, free and open to the public, is presented in the small gallery on the ground floor, room 179 of the Beaux-Arts building.

The hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and from 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday.


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