About the Exhibit
By Carla Summers
Head UCF Special Collections & University Archives
The books in this exhibit have been assembled to enable University of Central Florida students and faculty to appreciate a time before computer graphics and blogs when only the wealthiest owned books. The originals of these books were made by hand. Gutenberg’s revolutionary printing press came along in the mid 15th century and its introduction caused the same kind of profound shift in the nature of literacy and visual eloquence as today’s digital age. Computer graphics and imaging, digitization, and virtuality have transformed both the nature of representation and our relationship to it. So did Gutenberg’s moveable type revolutionize European book-making and people’s relationships to images and words and the ideas they contained. Ironically, today’s advancements in photography and digitization make these facsimiles possible and allow us to hold in our hands what was once meant for only a few.
The artists whose work is represented in the exhibit are unknown, but as viewers we can still discover their rich styles and seek to understand what was beautiful in their times. Through these books we can see the importance of images in religion, the way we look at them and the ways we have been historically conditioned to see them. These works provide a way to make a true study of the visual culture of religious belief. They also provide a way to look into the nobility of secular life, ideas of fealty, chivalry and the lives of knights. The symbolism, whether didactic or arcane, of the pictorial elements in the illustrations is of great interest not only for its expressive beauty and inherent mystery, but also because it provides, for the modern viewer, a rare and quite vivid glimpse into the milieu in which the works were fashioned.
It is hoped that the exhibit visitor will arrive at a broad understanding and appreciation of the books, and above all, to enjoy them as works of art.
The exhibit is divided into three large categories, reflecting medieval life, Love/Honor, Faith/Devotion and Fantasy/Myth. Many thanks to guest curator, Dr. Margaret Ann Zaho, Instructor of Art History, Art Department and Department of Special Collections and University Archives staff, Juliet Kamper who designed the graphics and publications, Alexandra Olson and April Karlene Anderson who designed the exhibit and Jonathon Teasley who designed the website.