Browse Exhibits (4 total)

Heresy and Error: The Ecclesiastical Censorship of Books, 1400–1800


Originally exhibited September 20 – December 17, 2010
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


From its inception the early Christian Church sought to suppress books believed to contain heretical or erroneous teachings. With the development of the printing press during the latter half of the fifteenth century, Christian authorities in Europe became increasingly aware of the need to control the mass production of unfamiliar and potentially unacceptable texts. Initially, censorship of the press was enforced locally. However, with the spread of the Protestant Reformation, the Catholic Church required a more centralized and organized approach. Thus, the Council of Trent (1545–1563) ratified the Index librorum prohibitorum (“Index of Prohibited Books”), which listed individual banned titles as well as authors whose writings had been condemned outright. Catholic officials also published lists of expurgations, which identified specific passages to be deleted from every copy of an edition. From the sixteenth century well into the nineteenth, the censorship of books remained a primary, if not entirely effective, means of eradicating heresy and error.

It is unusual for Bridwell Library to showcase its damaged volumes. In this exhibition, however, it is necessary to focus not on handsomely preserved rare books, but on the historical evidence offered by the intentional alteration and suppression of books by Christian censors during past centuries. Of the sixty-two books and broadsides in this exhibition, thirty-seven were prohibited, enduring either physical expurgation or the threat of destruction. The remainder are publications that assisted the Church in its battle against heresy and error: several are indexes of prohibited books or expurgations, while others were written in defense of ecclesiastical censorship. Combined, the exhibited books and broadsides contribute to a fuller understanding of the role of post-publication censorship in the religious controversies of the past.

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Invention and Discovery: Printed Books from Fifteenth-Century Europe


Originally exhibited February 2–May 3, 2010


Since 1962, Bridwell Library has built one of the finest collections of fifteenth-century printed books held in America. Numbering more than one thousand volumes, Bridwell’s collection of pre-1501 imprints is not merely a gathering of early typographic specimens. It is a rich and wide-ranging library of fifteenth-century reading material that reflects the mainstreams of European theological and humanist thought during the Renaissance period. Based on Classical, Christian, and medieval traditions, the early printed editions represented here helped lay the spiritual and intellectual foundations of the modern age.

This exhibition presents sixty books and broadsides printed between c. 1455 and 1500. The selections highlight unique copy-specific characteristics that focus attention on the various ways in which Europeans in past centuries discovered the power and potential of Gutenberg’s invention. Early readers were not content to leave their books exactly as they came off the presses, but were inclined to engage in their contents mentally and to intervene in their appearance physically. Employing local artisans to provide rubrication, illumination, and bindings, readers added their own annotations, inscriptions, and other signs of ownership and use. As a group, the exhibited items reflect the active participation of countless individuals in the initial spread of printing across Europe.

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The Shape of Content in Christian Books, Broadsides, and Prints


Originally exhibited August 24–December 18, 2015
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


From the late Middle Ages through the twentieth century, books produced for Christian worship, study, or private devotion have taken a great variety of shapes. Their many sizes, configurations, systems of organization, and special features have varied widely according to the requirements of their contents and the needs of their owners. Shorter texts intended for ephemeral purposes often appeared as single-sheet broadsides, while certain devotional objects functioned much like books yet conveyed their meaning in innovative ways. This exhibition explores how handwritten or printed examples of Christian texts from past centuries have transcended traditional expectations, bringing new meaning and enhanced understanding to their readers.

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Welcome Additions

Canon Missae

Origially exhibited September 9 – December 12, 2014
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


This exhibition highlights fifty rare books, manuscripts, broadsides, prints, and letters that were acquired by Bridwell Library Special Collections between 2008 and 2014. Produced in Europe and the Americas from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century, these works include late-medieval manuscripts, early printing, devotional manuals, books for worship, biblical translations, illustrated religious texts, Methodist writings, and printed ephemera. Each selected item is an authentic witness both to the history of written or printed communication and to important aspects of religious life in the past. Exhibited here for the first time, these recent acquisitions enhance the research potential of Bridwell Library’s holdings in a variety of important collecting areas.  

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