Access to material in Special Collections is extensive with busy reading and teaching rooms. We also frequently loan items to local, national and international exhibitions, most recently ‘William Blake: Apprentice and Master’ at the Ashmolean and the Whistler Retrospective in Japan. However, for the first time in over 10 years Special Collections are curating their own exhibition of 15th century books which will be exhibited in the Hunterian Art Gallery.
Over the last five years, Jack Baldwin has researched and catalogued over a thousand books that were produced within the first fifty years of printing for the Glasgow Incunabula Project. This period just after the invention of printing was particularly creative; some books were illuminated, had illuminations from manuscripts glued in or had old manuscripts as flyleaves. The high quality of cataloguing as a result of this project now means that these interesting volumes are accessed more easily and the staff involved have a renewed and thorough knowledge of this area of the collection. The exhibition has been curated by Senior Librarian Julie Gardham who selected sixty-four volumes which highlight different aspects of 15th century book production. The order of these books were provided months in advance so they could be included in the catalogue and could receive conservation to ensure they were stable enough for four months on display.
As exciting as the exhibition is for Special Collections, it is also a novel challenge for experienced exhibition designer Stephen Perry at the Hunterian. The gallery has a large permanent exhibition and a varied programme of temporary exhibitions which showcases its collection of art. In this instance, Stephen has treated these bound volumes like works of art and circumvented the rows of cases which would traditionally display books. This new way of exhibiting books creates a continuous flow through the different themes in the exhibition. Each book has its own lighting, plinth or wall support and purpose made cradle.
Categories: Special Collections