Past Event

Columbia University Seminar in Material Texts: Morgan Adams (Columbia University)

March 12, 2020
6:10 PM - 7:40 PM
Columbia University Faculty House


"Hidden in Plain Sight: Identifying Evidence of Curtains in Medieval Manuscripts in the Morgan Library & Museum"

Building on an important study of curtains in medieval manuscripts by Christine Sciacca, this essay examines the physical evidence of lost curtains in nearly forty manuscripts in the Morgan Library & Museum. Aside from a few examples in which manuscript curtains survive in situ, most have been lost. However, important physical evidence about them remains. This essay provides a brief introduction to the concept of curtains in medieval manuscripts to help us imagine how curtains would have looked and functioned in manuscripts. Next, extant curtains in the Morgan’s collection are examined as a framework for interpreting the evidence of lost curtains. Working from the Morgan’s examples, the essay then provides a typology of the physical features suggestive of lost curtains and discusses the challenges to interpreting this evidence. Finally, research areas that could be advanced by systematic study of curtain evidence in manuscripts are identified through examples from the Morgan collection. The primary aim is to help scholars recognize and describe curtain evidence so that they may more thoroughly document these features in manuscripts, thereby contributing to object-based interpretation of manuscripts by art historians, codicologists, and conservators alike.


This seminar brings together from various disciplines scholars who work on the history of the book and the study of material texts in order to place the technical and bibliographical study of text objects in dialogue with cultural studies and both the textually- and the materially-oriented humanist disciplines more broadly.  Over recent decades, book history has emerged as a necessarily and productively interdisciplinary field; with this in mind, this seminar focuses on the interpretation of material textual objects from an array of disciplinary perspectives.  Our aim is to provide a clearinghouse for emerging methods and work, and a nexus for scholars from diverse disciplinary backgrounds to discuss and pursue shared interests in the study of the book and the material text.

The seminar meets at 6:10 pm in Faculty House or, if noted, Butler Library Room 523 or the Morgan Library (please consult the calendar to verify the location).


This meeting will be held at: Faculty House, Columbia University