Books for Devotion: Private Prayer and Piety through Eight Centuries

Bridwell Library highlights books from the 13th to the 20th centuries intended to direct the soul in prayer and contemplation.

From the 'Books of Devotion' exhibit

DALLAS (SMU) — Bridwell Library at Southern Methodist University announces the opening of an exhibition of ancient and modern personal prayer books held by the library’s Special Collections.

From the Book of Hours. Illuminated manuscript on vellum. [Flanders, c. 1420]
See a slide show of items from the exhibit.

Opening February 2, 2009, this exhibition highlights 60 books dating from the 13th to the 20th centuries that were intended to direct the soul heavenward in prayer and inward in spiritual contemplation. Easily held in one’s hands, these books  reflect a devotional intimacy that helps the viewer understand the meaning of personal daily prayer and piety in centuries past.

The books on exhibit include:

  • Medieval manuscripts of Latin Psalters, Breviaries, and Books of Hours
  • Early printed manuals for personal devotion in various languages
  • Hebrew Psalters
  • Illuminated manuscripts for Muslim prayer
  • A variety of modern publications for individual Christian prayer

These books were designed to enhance private spirituality in ways that extended beyond what could be achieved through congregational forms of worship. At the same time, many of them were also treasured personal possessions whose physical beauty still engages us today. 

The exhibition, on view in the Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries from February 2 through May 1, 2009, is free and open to the public during regular library hours.

For further information or to schedule a tour, please contact Eric White, Curator of Special Collections, at 214-768-3440.

Bridwell Library is Southern Methodist University’s principal bibliographic resource for the fields of theology and religious studies. Founded in 1951, the library's primary responsibility is to support the curricular and research needs of faculty and students in the Perkins School of Theology at SMU. With more than 385,000 volumes in its collections, including more than 50,000 printed books in its special collections, Bridwell is among the premier theological libraries in the United States.

Perkins School of Theology, founded in 1911, is one of five official University-related schools of theology of The United Methodist Church. Degree programs include the Master of Divinity, Master of Sacred Music, Master of Theological Studies, Master of Church Ministries, and Doctor of Ministry, as well as the Ph.D., in cooperation with SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences.

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