A celebration of medieval manuscripts for Iowa City Book Festival

The UI Library’s Special Collections will feature over 30 ancient manuscripts Tuesday in conjunction with the Iowa City Book Festival.


Maleaha Brings Plenty, Arts Reporter

To not only see, but to also touch and read through medieval manuscripts, look no further than Manuscripts in the Curriculum, an open house Tuesday that will feature every manuscript current at the University of Iowa Special Collections. This celebration of ancient manuscripts comes as a part of the Iowa City Book Festival.

Special Collections has recently received 21 manuscripts from a rare book dealer of Paris, New York, and London called Les Enluminures. They are on loan for classroom use throughout the semester, and open houses every Tuesday display but a few of the manuscripts available.

For this special Tuesday, Special Collections brings more than 30 manuscripts for public to see.

The manuscripts date to the 13th century and span to the 19th century.

“We have a little bit of everything. We have everything from prayer books to hymnals,” said Elizabeth Riordan, a graduate research assistant at Special Collections. “But, you know, we have other things that are beautiful decorations of the alphabet, we have writings in Greek, and there’s an English genealogy roll starting with William the Conqueror and is a hand-written book of all the kings and queens of England.”

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The intricate, painstakingly made books will only be on display through open houses until Nov. 13, and the event Tuesday is one of the rare opportunities to see every one of them at once.

“This is an amazing opportunity to get close and personal with a lot of these manuscripts,” Riordan said. “We allow you to touch them, page through them, really get up and look at how a book was made back then. When else do you get to touch a medieval manuscript? For a hands-on experience to see something that is literally one-of-a-kind, you’re not going to get many chances to do that. So, take advantage of it while you can.”

The event will take place 4 to 7 p.m.  Tuesday in the UI Main Library Reading Room.