Scattered Leaves Exhibit and Lectures
In the early decades of the 20th century, a Cleveland book collector named Otto Ege (pronounced egg-ee) removed the pages from 50 medieval manuscript books, divided the pages among 40 boxes, and sold the boxes around the world. Most of the boxes now reside in university and public library collections in the United States and Canada. The remainder have yet to be located, and are very likely in private collections. The pages contained in each box were created between 1100 and 1600 A.D. in medieval scriptoria in Europe and England. They were written by hand (the printing press was not invented until 1450), usually by monks, on parchment and vellum. Some are beautifully illustrated in the margins; others are illuminated with gold. Almost all of the 50 pages in each box are religious in content: bibles, hymnals, breviaries and missals comprise the majority of texts from which the pages were removed. Many of these boxes attracted little or no attention for the first half-century of their existence, largely because scholars were interested in more famous or unique manuscripts. Also, many libraries, having purchased the boxes in the 1940s and 1950s, lost track of them until the 1990s, when facility upgrades, or whole scale moves into new archival premises, unearthed the boxes once more.
It is now apparent that many of the leaves in the Ege boxes have real significance for scholars and the general public. They tell us much about the history of text production in the medieval period when the book began its rise to prominence and about the monastic cultures that produced them. Many are exquisitely illuminated; all reveal the human labour and devotion that went into their creation.
Remaking the Book will gather representatives from Ege box-holding institutions in Canada and the United States. We will discuss how to create an “Otto Ege Medieval Manuscript Database” whose purpose will be to digitally reconstruct some of the books from which the pages were originally cut, including the valuable “Beauvais Missal” of northern France from the late 13th century. Scholars with expertise in fundamental aspects of the Ege manuscripts will speak about manuscript production and circulation, and about the process by which Otto Ege collected, disassembled and sold the leaves. Concurrent with the Symposium is Scattered Leaves, a public exhibit of the University of Saskatchewan’s Ege manuscripts at the University’s Gordon Snelgrove Gallery from June 7-23 and a public lecture on the manuscripts and their collector by Dr. Barbara Shailor, former Director of Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, on the evening of June 13th.