WMU News

Book on Bibles Moralisees wins Grundler Prize

June 11, 2002

KALAMAZOO -- A two-volume book that examines more than 24,000 small illustrations contained in versions of the Bible created for French royalty in the Middle Ages has been awarded a prestigious prize for medieval studies scholarship from Western Michigan University.

British researcher John Lowden, a reader in the history of art at the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London, received the 2002 Otto Grundler Prize for his book, "The Making of the Bibles Moralisées (BEE-buhl Mohr-AHL-eh-say), Volume I and II." The $2,500 prize is named for the former director of WMU's Medieval Institute, which each year is host to the world's largest gathering of scholars of medieval studies. This year's event, the 37th International Congress on Medieval Studies, was held in May at WMU and attracted some 3,000 participants.

Lowden's wife, Dr. Joanna Cannon, also a reader in the history of art at the Courtauld Institute, received her husband's award during ceremonies held at the congress. Cannon and Lowden, who are parents, alternate years to attend the congress. This year was Cannon's turn to come to Kalamazoo.

In "The Making of the Bibles Moralisées," Lowden examines the complicated way in which these manuscripts were conceived and produced. The Bibles Moralisées are considered to be the richest and most complex effort at biblical illustration ever undertaken. Created for French royalty between the early-13th and late-15th centuries, each page of the manuscripts contains eight drawn images, often quite small, accompanied by brief biblical text and moral strategies. Only seven of the Bibles Moralisées survive intact and the pages of those contain more than 24,000 images.

Lowden's effort took 15 years of intense study and research, including examination of the preserved pages of the Bibles Moralisées at various locations in France, England and the United States. Often, the images had to be studied using microscopes or special lighting conditions.

"'The Making of the Bibles Moralisées' is significant for its new approach of investigating how these books were produced," says Dr. Paul Szarmach, director of the WMU's Medieval Institute. "Many times, medieval texts are looked at from a literary point of view. Lowden examines the Bibles Moralisées from an art history perspective. In volume one, he gives fundamental insights into how the process worked and the differences between the manuscripts. In the second volume, he uses the Bibles Moralisées' different versions of the Book of Ruth to illustrate his points."

Published in 2000 by Pennsylvania State University Press, "The Making of the Bibles Moralisées" was chosen for the Grundler Prize from a field of nearly 20 submissions. The Grundler Prize was established by WMU President Emeritus Diether H. Haenicke to honor Grundler for his distinguished service to the University and his lifelong dedication to the international community of medievalists. The prize is intended to recognize a book or monograph on a medieval subject judged by a selection committee to be an outstanding contribution to the field. Authors from any country are eligible for the prize and nominations are accepted from readers or publishers.

Lowden, a specialist in Byzantine and Western manuscript illumination from late antiquity to the Middle Ages, also is the author of three other books: "Illuminated Prophet Books: A Study of Byzantine Manuscripts of the Major and Minor Prophets," "The Octateuchs: A Study of Byzantine Manuscript Illustration," and "Early Christian and Byzantine Art."

Media contact: Marie Lee, 269 387-8411, marie.lee@wmich.edu

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