Exhibition "1514. Book. 2014"

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Exhibition "1514. Book. 2014"
Exhibition "1514. Book. 2014"

From the 2 July exhibition "1514. The Book. 2014" will be displayed in the Book Museum Hall of the National Library of Latvia (3 Mūkusalas St., 1st floor).

The exhibition "1514. Book. 2014" is a unique and deeply personal chance to travel 500 years into the past – to understand that the book was and is a powerful medium in every person’s life, even if some may say that they don’t read books. The exhibition, which will include 80 books published in 1514, shows that contact with books, as a special kind of collective experience, has shaped every one of us. If the Pope in Rome changes the calendar in accordance with recommendations by certain astronomers, then my time also changes. If an intellectual translates the Bible into my language, then my language changes. If a cook publishes a cookbook in my language, then my meal will also change. if a traveller describes distant lands in a book, then my world, too, will also be enlarged. In about 1514, people experienced great changes, because 60 years after Gutenberg, authors and intellectuals had mastered the new possibilities of the printing press, and works in the new medium of the printed book had outnumbered manuscripts. These changes are similar to the ones we are experiencing at the present day, when printed and digital texts have become an essential element of everyday life. We are excited and alarmed by the new. In this regard, we can equate ourselves with the people of 500 years ago, contemporaries of the books displayed in the exhibition.

Why has the year 1514, a year about we know practically nothing, been chosen as the point of reference of the exhibition? The creators of the exhibition wish to show that books allow us to travel to any place and time in the past – including 1514, in order to return and better comprehend ourselves and our own age. The originator of the idea behind the exhibition, Andris Vilks, Director of the National Library of Latvia, envisaged it as an opportunity to view the European cultural space in terms of a single year, with the witnesses to the past age, namely books, stratified as in a cultural layer. This testifies to tremendous changes in science, culture, religion and politics. This was a very dynamic age: it gave rise to the idea of the Reformation, which excited Europe in 1517. The close-up view of ancient books reveals paradoxical similarities to the events of today, 500 years later. A vivid example is the reformed state ruled by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I, presenting a distant resemblance to the present-day European Union. In 1514 a sensational piece of news spread across Europe: the King of Portugal had presented the Pope with an albino elephant named Hanno. This kind of news would be widely read in the media today. When in 1514 the Polish forces defeated the Russians at Orsha, King Sigismund I hurriedly printed the news of his victory on a couple of pages and instructed that this ‘press release’ be distributed across Europe. And in Linz in 1514 the humanist Joachim Vadian was awarded a prize for poetry – this, too, sounds so contemporary!

In order to demonstrate the ‘great culture’ of 1514, reflecting intellectual life, and ‘small culture’, created by everyday life, the native place and customs, the exhibition will include not only the works of humanists, along with liturgical and prayer books, but also calculating books and cookbooks, calendars and even novels about knights, which belong to the medieval tradition of courtly culture. It will not be possible to physically leaf through the books – they will be placed in special showcases with anti-reflective Artglass. However, the content of the books will be accessible using interactive tablets placed next to each showcase. Also displayed in the exhibition will be several handwritten manuscripts on parchments.

The books in the exhibition come from 18 different European libraries. The greatest numbers of books have been provided by the Austrian National Library, the Bavarian State Library and the National University Library of Strasbourg. These repositories have particularly rich collections of 16th century publications. Also on display are books from the Vadiana Library of the Canton of St Gallen; the National Library of France in Paris; the Royal Library in Copenhagen, Denmark; the National Library of Sweden in Stockholm; the University of Manchester Library; New College Library, University of Edinburgh; the National Library of Poland in Warsaw; the National Library of Lithuania in Vilnius; the National Library of the Netherlands in the Hague; Basel University Library; the Moravian Provincial Archives as well as the Academic Library of the University of Latvia and the National Library of Latvia.

The exhibition has been created by: Andris Vilks, Director of the NLL and originator of the idea; Astrīda Rogule, who heads the exhibition project; Dr Gustavs Strenga, who created the concept of the exhibition, designer Dace Džeriņa and architect Guna Akona. The concept and texts of the exhibition have been co-created by Andris Levāns and Dr Jānis Krešliņš Junior.

The opening of the exhibition is supported by the Latvian National Library, the Riga 2014 Foundation, the Embassy of the Republic of Austria, the Secretariat of the Latvian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Latvia, the Chancery of the President of Latvia and Riga City Council.

The exhibition "1514.Book.2014" will be on display in the National Library of Latvia until 11 December 2014.