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Audience Activation

Joshua Roll

Joshua Roll

Winchester Psalter

Winchester Psalter

Codex Borbonicus

Codex Borbonicus

We often only have access to a piece of medieval culture that itself once fully integrated art, music, and religion with everyday society. This fragmented contact is especially true of medieval manuscripts, whose remains, be it their imagery or text, become the things we admire at a distance or study separately, detached from the experience of the book as one complete object used and engaged in a myriad of settings. In lieu of photographs, or even digitized facsimiles, physical facsimiles allow viewers to evaluate and participate through the exactness of the facsimile, as a whole book itself, the replica of a medieval manuscript. The Winchester Psalter, Joshua Roll, and Codex Borbonicus in this section initiate experiences as objects themselves, which must be handled, removed from a case, and opened, mirroring the use and process of moving through a codex. The experience begins on a very practical level with access to the facsimile. Similar to the limited access to books in the medieval world, today’s facsimile interactions are dependent on one’s admission to a library’s reading room for rare or special books. Simply put, as in the Middle Ages, a certain level of status grants privilege to the object.

      With these three facsimiles, the once passive viewer is able to become the active participant through each turning of the page. The Winchester Psalter, which was a type of book used for daily prayer, would have been leafed through multiple times a day in much the same way as Isabella's Book of Hours. The tactile action of going through the facsimile enables modern viewers to experience the same sense of anticipation, curiosity, and familiarity afforded by the manuscript and its imagery. Yet, as an object that can be held and engaged with fully, today’s viewers create a new, distinct performance with the facsimile, activating it outside of its medieval context.

      As its own work of art, then, the experience of the facsimile continues to develop the history of the book, both as something that pays homage to the Middle Ages and as an artifact of history, while engaging with contemporary audiences.

 

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