Image and Imagination from the Middle Ages: Illuminated Manuscripts in the Loras College Rare Books Collection

Introduction by Dr. John Eby

        "Image and Imagination from the Middle Ages” is an interactive internet exhibit designed and executed by undergraduate students for the library at Loras College.  The project was part of the coursework for HIS 341, “The Age of Love and Reason, 1075-1517,” a History course on the Late Middle Ages taught by John Eby.  Inside this site you will find topical essays, images and information, and a link to a full-text scan of one of the most impressive manuscripts in the Loras College Rare Books Collection.  Along with Dr. John Eby, librarians Joyce Meldrem, Bob Klein, and especially Heidi Pettit, provided assistance, guidance, training, and access to materials for the students.  Also essential with web design was Mr. Robert Adams. Nonetheless, the content of each essay is the sole responsibility of the undergraduate who composed it and not that of Loras College, the Loras College library, individual librarians, or the course instructor.  Despite the disclaimer, we hope that you will find this exhibit unique, interesting, and illuminating.

        The Loras College Library has an impressive collection of manuscripts from the medieval period.  Its collection contains biblical texts and glosses from the twelfth century, ornately decorated Books of Hours, Psalters, a large Choir Book, and a Missal from the fifteenth century, and other books and documents from the intervening centuries.  The collection was built by the generous contributions of several collectors, especially Father Karl Schroeder and Father J. Kenneth Downing and is available for limited public access.

        This exhibit is fully designed and executed by students in the course, who were organized into groups handling image scanning, web exhibit design, physical display, oral presentation, and advertising.  Some individuals wrote topical essays, and you will be able to find interesting discussions of naturalism and fantasy in marginalia, representations of angels, the four writers of the Gospels, images of daily life, the artistic depiction of gender relations, and the curious ornamentation of initials with a variety of faces.  The assignment resulting in this display was designed collaboratively by Dr. John Eby (History), Joyce Meldrem (Library Director), Heidi Pettit (Technical Services Librarian), and Bob Klein (Retired Library Director and Rare Bookroom Specialist).  The purpose of the assignment was to promote awareness of the Loras College Library holdings and to entice in students an appreciation of medieval material culture and give them practical experience displaying and explaining the works of antiquity.

        We hope that you enjoy perusing these aesthetic treasures from the past.  The scans are property of the Loras College Library, which invites ongoing open use of them for academic purposes.  Welcome to “Image and Imagination from the Middle Ages.”


Dr. John Eby
Loras College