Benedictines' Bookish Bent Seen at Display of Rare Works

SUBIACO, Italy, SEPT. 18, 2003 ( An exhibition under way here demonstrates that the history of books wouldn’t be complete without the contribution of Benedictine monks.

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The exhibition, entitled “Book Museum,” will be open until year-end in the St. Scholastica convent in Subiaco.

The exhibition demonstrates the “boom” in monastic writing and printing, and includes illuminated manuscripts, incunabula and other very rare works.

The creation of the St. Scholastica Library dates back to St. Benedict himself (480-547), father of Western monasticism. His famous Rule implies the use of books in private and communal reading.

Early books were lost due to the devastation caused by the Saracens in the ninth century.

One of the most valuable pieces on display is the famous “Lattanzio Sublacense,” a 1465 incunabulum, or early book, considered the first writing of this nature. It was done by two German monks named Sweynheim and Pannartz, who brought the printing system of mobile characters to Italy.

There is also a rare copy of St. Augustine’s “De Civitate Dei” (City of God).

The library, housed in a 12th-century Romanesque cloister, is one of the richest of the 11 great abbeys of Italy.

It contains a total of 100,000 volumes, 3,780 parchments, 440 manuscript codices, 250 incunabula, a 10th-century collection of Psalms, and an 11th-century explanation of the Bible.

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