November 20, 2015 – February 21, 2016

The late Middle Ages marked a golden era for Austrian book art. For centuries, the Church had been the sole patron of manuscripts. However, during this period, a shift occurred, and both the aristocracy and newly established universities developed an interest in books. The prime example of this transformation is the Evangeliary of Johannes von Troppau, dating back to 1368, whose gold and silver binding serves as the central theme of this exhibition. Commissioned by Duke Albrecht III (1365–1395), this illuminated manuscript is considered the foundational codex of the Imperial Court Library. After many years, it is now on public display at the outset of this exhibition, only to be replaced by a facsimile in early December for conservation reasons.

Alongside numerous valuable Gothic manuscripts, the Evangeliary stands as evidence of a burgeoning book culture that prioritized the deliberate collection of books and an appreciation for their opulent ornamentation. Aristocratic patrons held particular prominence during this time, with reproductions of their heraldic crests underscoring their territorial claims, and portrait-like depictions highlighting the individuality of the owners.

The flourishing of book art continued under Emperor Frederick III (1452–1493) and Emperor Maximilian I (1493–1519), with the creation of large illuminated manuscripts, such as the Books of Prayers crafted for Emperor Frederick III.

The exhibition culminates with the Gutenberg revolution of the 15th century, which brought about the invention of book printing. This innovation significantly expanded the readership of texts, replacing manual illustration with mechanical reproduction. Visitors will encounter masterpieces of Renaissance book art, including the renowned Vienna Heiltumsbuch and woodcuts attributed to Lucas Cranach, all showcased for the first time in this exhibition.

"Golden Ages" presents more than 80 unique exhibits spanning over 200 years of book culture.

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