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Beyond Words – Whither the Book c. 1400?

The "Divine Comedy." Printed by Bonino De Bonini, (1487).

The Divine Comedy. Printed by Bonino De Bonini, 1487

Whither the Book in the 1400s?

Just as we, today wonder about the continued existence of the Print Book, ” Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books,” at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, Boston, deftly puts this “new” wonder into perspective,

“Just as we question today whether printed books will become extinct in the digital age, this exhibition invites you to revisit the era when the advent of printing made hand-painted manuscripts obsolete.”

“In the 1400s book production witnessed groundbreaking advances in design and technology that transformed pages from parchment (animal skin) to paper, script to font, and vividly colored illuminations to black and white prints.”


                                                                                             Divine Comedy (Detail)

    “A surge in literacy and demand for books drove innovation. These radical changes did not occur instantly but through a gradual process of experimentation marked by notable leaps in achievement. ” (Source: Gardner Museum)

The Exhibition

The exhibition explores “how the ancestor of the modern book was perfected around 1500, thanks to innovations of the previous century.” (Source: Gardner Museum).

It includes “the first copy to enter an American collection of the Botticelli- illustrated edition of Dante’s Divine Comedy.” (Source: “At the Gardner,” Museum publication, Fall 2016)

What We Can See From Here

The Purpose of this blog is to review how museum and publishers use the tools of the New Media to make Art accessible to everyone, everywhere.  There is an impressive Exhibition Catalog, 378 pages with 325 color plates, $58.00), which ” documents one of the most ambitious exhibitions of medieval and Renaissance,” and illustrates the depth and richness of the exhibition.

At present, it doesn’t appear that an e-copy or a PDF copy is available, and the museum’s website provides access to only 3 of the 325 color plates. It is hoped that before the exhibition closes in January, these will become available. The museum may well consider archiving the exhibition so that is is accessible to everyone, everywhere, and for all time. However, if ever in Boston, a  visit to the Gardner is a must.

Gardner Museum Cortyard

Courtyard Gardner Museum

Beyond Words: Italian Renaissance Books

SEPTEMBER 22, 2016–JANUARY 16, 2017– Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way, Boston, MA 02115.

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