Launch of Celebrating Word and Image 1250-1600

Last week we launched a beautiful new book from Margaret M. Manion and Charles Zika - Celebrating Word and Image 1250-1600: Illuminated Manuscripts from the Kerry Stokes Collection. Here we share Barry Jones' launch speech.

I was delighted to have been asked to launch this important book, and should explain why I think that the invitation came. First, I am a profound admirer of Margaret Manion. Second, I am a modest collector of illuminated manuscripts (only 18 so far, mostly single folios) and Professor Manion’s advice and judgment has been very important to me.

I want to say something about the three key figures involved in this publication, Kerry Stokes, Margaret Manion, Charles Zika, before I describe the material presented, and the outstanding quality of the publication.

Kerry Stokes was born in Melbourne in 1940, was adopted as an infant and had a very tough upbringing without exposure to formal education. His biography has recently been written by Margaret Simons. He established himself in Western Australia where his strategic skills, tireless energy, lateral thinking and quick reflexes enabled him to make a major contribution in a number of areas – property, mining, the Seven Network, the print media, construction equipment and electronics. And he became one of Australia’s greatest art collectors.

His collection is very diverse, including international sculpture and paintings (including two by Monet, also works by Andy Warhol, Gilbert and George, Bridget Riley), taking in Pop Art, the New Realism, Minimalism, Australian painting, Aboriginal art, rare books, military history, maps, and exploration. The collection includes twelve outstanding illuminated manuscripts from the medieval and Renaissance periods, the subject of the work we launch tonight.

Emeritus Professor Margaret Manion, AO, FAHA, is one of our most distinguished scholars in the humanities. A refugee from New South Wales and a Loreto nun, she gained her PhD at Bryn Mawr and also studied in Rome. She succeeded Sir Joseph Burke as the Herald Professor of Fine Arts at the University of Melbourne in 1979, retiring, in a way, in 1995. She was also Chair of the Academic Board, a Pro Vice Chancellor and heavily involved with the Australian Research Council. Her great area of expertise is in illuminated manuscripts of the medieval and Renaissance periods, especially devotional works.

I encourage you to follow up her publications set out on page 78 of Celebrating Word and Image 1250-1600.

Professor Charles Zika, FAHA, born in Prague, arrived in Australia at the age of four, graduated from Melbourne, carried out research at Tubingen, and has taught at Monash, Melbourne and Gottingen. As the Melbourne University website helpfully points out, his ‘research focuses on the cultural, religious and visual history of northern and central Europe in the speaking lands. His past publications have covered topics such as humanism and magic, the German Reformation, the social construction of knowledge, sexuality and moral order, religious practices and authority, folklore and celebrations of the past, cannibalism and images of witchcraft.’ He is a useful person to have around. Currently he is a chief investigator in the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, 1100-1800.

Again, I invite you to contemplate his list of publications on page 78.

Celebrating Word and Image 1250-1600 runs to 80 pages of text (30 cm x 24 cm), plus end papers, and all twelve items are described in detail. Six of the twelve properties in Kerry Stokes’ medieval and Renaissance collection were acquired from the Cornelius J. Hauck Collection, Cincinnati, in the period 2006-07.

Margaret’s expertise guides us through eleven items, which fall into three categories, ‘Books for Study and Preaching’, ‘Books for Formal Worship’ and ‘Personal Prayer Books’. Three works date from the thirteenth century, and the latest from 1606. The material comes from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany and Bohemia. The notes are exemplary, as one might expect, and the illustrations lavish. There is an excellent glossary.

The latest work on the list is secular – ‘The Carnival Book’, or Schembart Buch, the Book of the Nuremberg Shrovetide Carnival. Here Charles Zika comes into his own. The Carnival dates back to the period of the Black Death, 1349, and was held sixty five times between 1449 and 1539. The Carnival was suspended in 1525 when the Lutherans, notorious kill-joys, took charge in Nuremberg, but later resumed briefly. (The Schembart Buch also comes from the Hauck Collection.) It runs to 138 folios, is dated at 1540, and vividly portrays dancing, runners, and carnival floats, many extremely elaborate, such as one of a ship. Many participants are in masks, and could well be wearing lycra. Except for the absence of bicycles, we could well be in Tony Abbott’s Australia. (Come to think of it, we are.)

Celebrating Word and Image is a fascinating work, combining European art, Australian scholarship and publishing skill, and Chinese printing. I am delighted to launch it herewith.