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 2018

Illuminated faces: author portaits in the Hunterian Library

Continuing the Tercentenary celebration of William Hunter's work and life, we are now showcasing some manuscripts and incunabula (15th century printed books) from his extraordinary library that feature author portraits. 

These images are incorporated into the decorative scheme of the books and portray the writer of the text, usually shown either in the act of writing or presenting the finished work to the patron or donor. This type of depiction, once reserved for the writers of the Gospels (the Evangelists) became an essential element of illuminated manuscripts throughout the medieval period and beyond. Later, even with the development of the printed book, they were still prominently used as part of the decoration. 

The books displayed all feature portraits that showcase the range and immense craftsmanship that are often hidden in book illustration. Significant centres of manuscript and incunabula production - Italy and France - are highlighted here. They draw inspiration and techniques from more traditional forms of art such as painting, architecture and sculpture.  Despite the miniature scale in which these illuminators were working, they employed the same skills as their counterparts working in these mediums. Techniques like burnishing (polishing of metallic surfaces to increase shine), and gilding (application of gold or silver to a surface) are seen in portraits of Thomas Aquinas and Marco Polo. The artist's interest in the architecture and sculptural nature of antiquity presents itself in a portrait of Quintus Curtius and its accompanying decorative border, as he writes the history of Alexander the Great from his study, mimicking the Evangelist portraits of previous centuries.

Exhibition curated by Shauna Haynes, MLitt Renaissance Art Placement student

On display in the Hunterian Art Gallery

The Philosophy Chamber: art and science in Harvard's teaching cabinet, 1766-1820

17 April - 15 July 2018

Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, Harvard is one of the world’s most distinguished and best-known universities. The Philosophy Chamber reunites exceptional works of art and artefacts from its collections, many of which have not been on show for nearly two hundred years and places them in the context of objects used and collected at the same time on the other side of the Atlantic, at the University of Glasgow.

Eight items from Archives and Special Collections feature in this exhibition, including books donated to teh University by Richard Hollis, archival material relating to James Watt, and a design by William Adam for the Old College Library.

External Exhibitions

No items are currently loaned out for external exhibitons.