A new exhibit at the Library explores the written word and the way we read.

The Papal Parchments and Blackletter Books, 1245 AD to UBC: How the Middle Ages Shaped the Way we Read exhibit uses medieval manuscripts in the Library’s collections – including a 13th century Papal Bull the Library acquired in 2014 – to follow the development of Western writing. 

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Professor Richard Pollard from UBC’s Department of History and Master’s student Robert Makinson curated the exhibit, which includes items from 1245-1525. These items “represent the transition from handwritten manuscripts to mass-produced printed books.” In addition to these rarely seen items, the exhibit prominently features a one-of-a-kind papal bull issued by Pope Innocent IV in 1245.  

Medieval manuscripts are an essential part of today’s print culture; many of the letter-forms that we use today were invented by medieval scribes. Many items in the collection were made during the latter half of the fifteenth century, around the time that Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, portraying a critical period in the development of Western writing and reading. 

The exhibit is open to the public in UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC), Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. from May 1 until May 29. RBSC is located on the first floor of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre.

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