"Book Marks: the Trail Readers Leave Behind" - An exhibition at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Librar

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February 24, 2009

WEATHER ALERT: The opening reception for Book Marks: the Trail Readers Leave Behind has been rescheduled for 3:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, Saint John's University.

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML), located on the campus of Saint John’s Abbey and University in Collegeville, Minn., will present the exhibition Book Marks: the Trail Readers Leave Behind. This exhibition features selections from the extensive rare book collection of the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library and runs from Feb. 19 through May 30. The 13 books in this exhibit all bear the marks left by previous generations of readers who wrote in them, marked in them, damaged the covers or warped the bindings; fortunately for us our ancestors did such things as these marks now reveal a portal to the thoughts and ideas of past readers.

One of the works included in Book Marks is a tiny pocket volume of Thomas a Kempis’ De imitatione christi (The Imitation of Christ) written in the 1700s. F. Cojetan, the book’s previous owner, referred to this little devotional book so frequently that over time, the book took the shape of his hand. The contents of this handbook encouraged the reader to cultivate interior spirituality with Christ as the model. This gem and the many other books in the cases of the HMML gallery have a story to tell and Theresa Vann, Curator of Malta studies and professor of medieval history at HMML, is the storyteller. Book Marks: the Trail Readers Leave Behind is the co-creation of Vann and Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn, public programs and exhibition associate. Vann invites viewers to experience the books for themselves:

Book Marks is for people who love old books, and who wonder about the people who read them” reflects Vann. “The exhibit takes you by the hand and leads you into that world. We show you how each old book is an artifact that teaches about its past owners. We explain how scholars deduce a book’s history by examining its condition. We put each book within its historical or cultural context. What I love best about the exhibit though, is that the books were not selected for their beauty or their value (although some of them have both); they were selected because they speak eloquently about the thoughts and concerns of human beings we otherwise know nothing about.”

An opening reception for this exhibition will take place from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 11 (note change in date), at the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library. Wine, cheese and chocolate will be served, and guests will have an opportunity to make their own marks of any type in the gallery guestbook. This book will become a part of HMML’s collection documenting the exhibition and the thoughts and signatures of the guests in the year 2009.

Also on exhibition in the HMML gallery are six original two-page openings from Wisdom Books and Prophets from The Saint John’s Bible, a contemporary work commissioned by the Saint John’s Abbey and University and created in the tradition of hand-written medieval manuscripts. Donald Jackson, the Senior Scribe to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s Crown Office of the House of Lords, is the artist director. More information may be found at www.saintjohnsbible.org

The Hill Museum & Manuscript Library is open 8-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Guests are always welcome to view the exhibition at their leisure and visit the gift shop which offers a wide array of cards, books, prints and other gift items. Entrance to HMML is free. Interpretative tours and presentations are available for groups wishing to book in advance. Information and booking requests maybe directed to Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn by calling 320-363-2355 or by e-mail at jdubbeldeekuhn@csbsju.edu. Guests may also find information at www.hmml.org.

About Saint John’s Abbey and University and the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML)
Saint John’s Abbey is a Benedictine monastic community of men who follow the 1,500-year tradition of worship and work through daily prayer and service. About two thirds of the community live and work in Collegeville, Minn. The Abbey is located on 2,700 acres of woodland and lakes in Collegeville, 70 miles north of Minneapolis/Saint Paul. Located on the campus of Saint John’s University, the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library is dedicated to preservation of and access to art, rare books and manuscripts focused on how humans imagine the sacred. HMML’s history of preserving rare and endangered handwritten works from around the world by capturing them on microfilm, and now in digital formats, began in earnest in 1965; the collection now totals 30 million pages of manuscripts, the world’s largest collection of manuscript images. For more information about the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library visit www.hmml.org.