Bridwell Library holds a wide range of illustrations in books and manuscripts created in various locales and time periods. The images in these volumes offer readers both aesthetic pleasure and graphic information which complements textual content. This exhibition focuses on printed illustrations which were intentionally created as coherent series of images. Included are suites of engravings, entirely engraved books with image and text included on the same plate, illustrated sequences of woodcuts and engravings in printed books, and sets of prints in publications intended for children. All were published between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries in continental Europe, England, or Mexico.
Several of the publications are biographies, a genre particularly well-suited for image sequences which highlight episodes in the lives of religious figures. Subjects here include the life of Jesus and the lives of saints, martyrs, and hermits. Other narrative accounts with illustrated series delineate the Stations of the Cross, the order of the Mass, and the origins of the Virgin of Guadalupe in New Spain. The variety of publications on display also includes works for children that incorporate sets of illustrations based on episodes in the Bible. Created as educational tools, these images are an integral part of the work, purposefully included to attract and maintain the interest of youngsters beginning their study of scripture.
For readers of all ages, these illustrated series provide an opportunity to engage with publications beyond textual reading and to discover the potential of printed works in which the use of images is a primary focus and an essential element. Beyond the written word and the embellished page, these images educate and edify, simultaneously providing viewers with information and the opportunity for spiritual reflection.