A Nostalgic Filter: A University of Pittsburgh Exhibition

Codex Caesareus

Uppsala, Universitetsbibliothek Uppsala, C 93

This lavish page commemorates the donation of this golden book to the imperial church Henry III had founded in Goslar, Germany, his favorite city. The original manuscript, among the most lavish copies of the Gospels to be produced in the Middle Ages, remained in Goslar until the Thirty Years’ War when it disappeared and was taken to Sweden under mysterious circumstances. The book is now in the university library in Uppsala, Sweden, where it first drew the attention of Carl Nordenfalk, author of the commentary volume for this 1971 facsimile. A landmark for the printing techniques of its time, the book’s heavy paper pages reproduce the golden surfaces of the original vellum manuscript more closely than had been possible before, even capturing the textured details of the emperor’s robes and crown.

Nordenfalk later became Mellon Professor in History of Art at Pitt, where he organized Color of the Middle Ages (1976), an innovative exhibition that filled the University Art Gallery (UAG) with facsimiles of medieval manuscripts. The 2020 pandemic prompted the translation of a similar show, originally envisioned for installation in the UAG, to this online format. This has led in turn to a fresh reevaluation of the ways in which the shifting frontiers of technological capacity can open new avenues of digital access to medieval booksa change that is as transformative for the study of manuscripts today as advances in print media were for Nordenfalk’s generation.

This manuscript has been digitized and is available at Alvin, the national cultural heritage platform of Sweden.

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