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News Release — April 8, 2004

Cambridge Fellow and Manuscripts Scholar de Hamel to Offer Pforzheimer Lecture on "The Medieval Book of Hours"

"No one has ever counted up how many Books of Hours still exist. It would be possible, but would require patience, as Books of Hours are now more widely scattered around the world than any other object made in the Middle Ages. Though fair numbers of them have ended up in major national libraries, these manuscripts have always been rather despised by serious librarians and have been enormously admired by private collectors. That is exactly why Books of Hours were made..." --- Christopher de Hamel from his book A History of Illuminated Manuscripts

During the late Middle Ages, the Book of Hours developed as a popular devotional text for the laity, who would recite the particular prayer for the hour of the day and time of year according to the ecclesiastical calendar. This year's Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Lecture will concentrate on these unique medieval manuscripts by featuring preeminent authority Christopher de Hamel. The event will take place on Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. in the Prothro Theater at the Ransom Center.

Dr. de Hamel, Donnelley Fellow Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, has written a number of books on the subjects of medieval manuscripts and book history including A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (1986), Scribes and Illuminators (1992), and The Book. A History of The Bible (2001), his expertise developed in 25 years of work at Sotheby's where he served as senior director and director of the department of Western Manuscripts. During his time with the auction house, de Hamel was responsible for all sales of medieval and illuminated manuscripts, including such notable sales as the Gospels of Henry the Lion, which sold for $12 million in 1983; the most valuable single sale of books -- the Fürstenburg manuscripts in 1993; and the most valuable single book ever sold­the Sherborne Missal, to the British Library in 1999. Dr. de Hamel will attempt to shed some light on the medieval Book of Hours -- several variations of which, lavishly illustrated, are contained in the Ransom Center's collections -- through this lecture and accompanying slide presentation.

About the Pforzheimer Lecture

The Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Lecture was established to honor the Ransom Center's Carl and Lily Pforzheimer Library, acquired in 1986. Carl H. Pforzheimer, a New York investment banker and bibliophile who died in 1947, formed the library from acquisitions he made primarily in the 1920s and 1930s. One of the world's most important collections of English literature, it comprises over 1,100 volumes and about 250 groups of letters and manuscripts that represent the foundations of English Culture. Past speakers in the Pforzheimer Lecture series have included Anthony Hobson, author of Great Libraries, Nicholas Basbanes, author of A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books, and Paul Needham, Scheide Librarian at Princeton.

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