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About the Exhibits

The University of Pennsylvania is home to an extraordinary array of medieval manuscripts, and an extraordinary community of scholars who study them. The Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts, which encompasses the historic Henry Charles Lea Library in which you now find yourself, holds a core collection of some 250 pre-modern manuscript codices, while the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies houses several hundred more in addition to its nearly 700 Cairo Genizah fragments. Our holdings were greatly enhanced in 2011 by the transformative gift of the Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection, comprising approximately 300 items that bear witness to the dissemination of practical knowledge from antiquity through to early modernity. Along with this gift came the foundation of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, a research center dedicated to the study and digitization of manuscripts broadly writ. Closer to home, many of Penn’s faculty share a commitment to the centrality of the “Material Text” in all its guises. Perhaps most importantly, students at all levels, from undergraduates through to Ph.D. candidates, are afforded opportunities to conduct original research on our manuscripts. 

The impetus for this trio of exhibitions was a curatorial seminar held in the fall semester of 2017, which brought together three outstanding graduate students with the goal of formulating a set of complementary one-day exhibits that could reflect the theme of the 2019 Medieval Academy annual meeting, The Global Turn in Medieval Studies. Their work has been exemplary of the interdisciplinarity for which the University of Pennsylvania is renowned, and their creativity and intellect have allowed our collection to shine in new and exciting ways.

Dr. Nicholas Herman

Curator of Manuscripts

Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies