Special Collections items currently on exhibition

Special Collections items currently on exhibition


In the showcase of the foyer of Special Collections on level 12 of the University of Glasgow Library

April - June 2017

The Humanist North

There are many historical myths about the medieval period. We have all heard stories of the strictly devout society, despotic rulers and the daily grime and misery that reigned over Europe for almost five hundred years. Then, we were told, came the glorious Italian Renaissance, and soon the light of classical learning and beauty shone down onto the Dark Ages. However, a selection of manuscripts from Special Collections highlighted in this display proves that the relationship between the Middle Ages and the Renaissance is much more intricate than that.

Before the advent of the Renaissance classical knowledge existed in Northern Europe in a Christian context. Writings of antique philosophers were valued chiefly for their moralistic quality and were placed alongside devotional texts in compendiums such as MS Hunter 231. In the full-page illumination on display, three philosophers - Plato, Seneca, and Aristotle - are pictured in contemporary doctors’ caps and fur-lined gowns. They are holding books inscribed with quotations from their writings, each summing up the key message of its author. The image transmits the teachings of the philosophers into the here-and-now of the medieval Christian reader-viewer.

MS Hunter 91 is a copy of Leonardo Bruni’s Vitae Antiquorum - a text on the lives of antique personages that embodies the movement of humanist ideas from Italy into Northern Europe quite literally. The book was written in two different scripts: partly in Florentine humanist cursive and partly in bastarda – an elegant, courtly script associated with French scribes and the Duchy of Burgundy until the late sixteenth century.

MS Hunter 206 was produced for Raphael de Mercatellis (1437-1508), founder of one of the first humanist libraries in the Netherlands. Although the Flemish book-hand script and floral decoration are typical of the period, the contents of the manuscript are far removed from the princely interests of Flemish nobility. The patron’s monogram and coat of arms are proudly displayed in the illuminated initials which open Leonardo Bruni’s Latin translation of Plato’s Phaedo – a dialogue on the soul and immortality. The heraldic decoration of the text not only denotes the noble status of the owner, but also points to the pride Raphael took in his patronage of classical learning.

Display curated by Wiktoria Muryn, MLitt Renaissance Art History student.

On display in the Hunterian Museum as part of the William Hunter: man, medic and collector exhibition

Feb - June 2017

Alexander Stuart: List of Men Deceased on Board the Ship “Europe”  
Indian Ocean: 1704-1707
MS Hunter 50 (T.2.8)

Alexander Stuart (1673?-1742) was surgeon on the ship Europe which travelled to the Indian Ocean during the years 1704-1707. He meticulously recorded case notes for all of his patients in this journal, concluding with this list of the thirteen crew-members who died on the voyage. The perils of long distance sea travel are evident from the causes of death which include “impostumation of the liver” (i.e. an abscess), Beriberi and drowning. 

Geoffroy Tory: Champ Fleury
Paris: for Geoffroy Tory and Giles de Gourmont, 1529
Sp Coll Hunterian H.6.15

The Champ Fleury (literally “field of flowers” but also a phrase meaning “paradise”) is one of the most celebrated works of sixteenth-century French book art. It concerns the correct form and proportion of classical lettering but it is far more than a mere typographic manual since it doubles up as a moral and allegorical treatise. William Hunter was very interested in early works on typography and printing history. He seems to have acquired this work at the book sale of George III’s chaplain, the theologian and book collector Cèsar de Missy (1703-1775).

On display in the Hunterian Art Gallery

Nothing from Special Collections currently on exhibition.

External Exhibitions

Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow
Frank Quitely: the art of comics
1 April - 1 October 2017

Frank Quitely is the alter ego of Glasgow born artist Vincent Deighan - a world renowned artist famous for iconic characters such as Superman, Batman and the X-Men. This exhibition is the largest collection of his work ever displayed. Find out more from the Kelvingrove website.

Two items from Special Collections are on show: our special hand coloured copy of the first issue of the 'World's first comic' the Glasgow Looking Glass (Sp Coll Bh14-x.8) and one emblem book from our outstanding Stirling Maxwell collection (SM 1903).