“Women of the Book” exhibition reveals the lives of women from 1450 to 1800

winches; Therapists. mystics. worlds. Diplomats.

These descriptors detail the lives of those mentioned in book women groupThe selections are now on display in the George Peabody Library Gallery through January 2023.

“The Women of the Book tells us, more than any single source in the world, what it was like to be a woman 500 years ago, 400 years ago, 300 years ago,” Earl HavensNancy Hall, Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts and Director of the Virginia Fox Stern Center for the History of Book in the Renaissance at Johns Hopkins Sheridan Libraries.

“We have a special angle, in a way, because women nuns, women who took vows of chastity and poverty and obedience, also had access to education and printing presses. Live,” Havens says, noting that this collection, now numbering nearly 1,000 volumes of 1450 to 1800, containing mostly the works and possessions of Roman Catholic nuns.

Focusing on the spiritual and religious life as a general theme, some authors wrote personal memories or cataloged monastery residents while others created unique book amulets and shrines. Artists have drawn intricate illustrations that accompany the texts.

“We learn a lot about women in general from this group. You have examples of secular women also participating in this material, but you also see the impact of other feminist artistic practices like embroidery,” she says. Kelsey Champagneco-curator of the exhibition and a postdoctoral fellow in the history of early modern book at the Stern Center.

“We learned that they were makers, that they embraced a sorority, that they yearned for community, and that they were incredibly spiritually productive. And we see tremendous creativity and beauty,” she says, adding that the Women of the Book collection not only helps illustrate the independence of these nuns. in terms of their own intellectual pursuits, but it also sparks a discussion about gender dynamics and women’s roles in society even today.

Champagne was first introduced to the curatorial business as a student at Johns Hopkins University when she enrolled in a seminar led by Elizabeth PattonHe is a lecturer at the Alexandre Grass Institute for the Humanities. Havens was a guest speaker in the class. After graduating from the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences in 2015 and then earning her Ph.D. from Yale University, Champagne returned to Hopkins as a Stern Center Fellow, an opportunity that allowed her to become more involved in this exhibition and bring to light the voices of these women.

“We know that they were makers, that they embraced a sorority, that they yearned for community, and that they were incredibly spiritually fruitful. And we see tremendous creativity and beauty.”

Kelsey Champagne

Co-curator of the “Women of the Book” exhibition

“This fellowship brings young scholars into the curatorial field and is a way to bring more rigorous scholarship into curatorial work,” she says, explaining that while this fellowship is specifically coordinated, it also includes teaching with groups and mentoring other graduate students interested in the field. .

In teaching his students, Havens says he stresses that many rare books have never been studied. So, when he put such books in the students’ hands, he likes to point out, “Nobody has published anything about it. Why not be the first person to address it?”

In addition to the fellowship and curators of Havens, philanthropy played a major role in not only acquiring these rare books, but also in publishing their contents. In fact, 85% of the “women writers” group are now so Digital and available online Thanks to a grant from Arcadia, a charitable trust from Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.

The exhibition itself was made possible thanks to the members of the Sheridan Society in Friends of Johns Hopkins University LibrariesA reception on October 2 was funded by the organization. The event featured a performance by Paula Maust and Grace Srinivasan of Musica Spira, a group of Peabody Institute alumni focused on early modern composers.

“This exhibition is important because rare books, when closed on shelves, are ultimately worthless. They hold their value of course, but there is a difference between a book gathering dust on a shelf and a book in the hands and in front of the eyes of people from all walks of life,” says Havens. “This exhibition engages not only our academic community, but Baltimore and, in fact, the world.”

The “Women of the Book” group continues to grow; When asked what his favorite acquisition was, Havens replied with a smile, “Next of course!”

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