The Material Past: Negotiating the Spiritual and Secular in the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds

Welcome to the online version of The Material Past: Negotiating the Spiritual and Secular in the Medieval and Early Modern World, presented by the Department of Special Collections, University of Colorado Boulder Libraries.

This exhibit focuses on the importance of material items in the lives of those who lived in the medieval and early modern world.  Manuscripts and texts played an extremely important role in the lives of many.  Spiritually, these texts became physical icons of an intangible faith.  Manuscript documents pertaining to law, business, and society were the only reliable way to ensure a transaction or proceeding, and thus ensured power to the owner.  Materials relating to the sciences were able to teach and explain phenomena, through pictures and sometimes detailed experimentation, of many facts that were for the first time explained in natural terms.  An examination of the production and re-use of medeival manuscripts highlights not only the materiality of the texts themselves but also the practices, traditions, and artistry of their creators and owners. 

Explore the pages below to examine some specific examples of material objects held at the Department of Special Collections and learn of the impact they had in the medieval and early modern world.