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Grolier Club Exhibitions

Alisa K. Beer

Alisa K. Beer collects both 21st-century SFFH (science fiction, fantasy, and horror) and single leaf teaching samples of medieval manuscripts and early printed books.

Three items from the latter collection were selected for this exhibition. The single leaves Alisa owns have been selected not for value or beauty, but for their didactic purpose and suitability for classroom use. The best teaching examples are often dirty, messy, or tattered. As such, they illustrate the materiality of the book, and ideally reveal something about either the production or the subsequent lives of medieval manuscripts or early printed books.

Alisa uses these leaves to teach book history in the college classroom and in independent presentations, where students are encouraged to touch them and engage with the materiality of the past.


Illuminated Leaf from a Latin Psalter.

(Unknown) France, 15th century(?). 14x19 cm.

This single parchment leaf on thin, smooth parchment is small and elegant in its script and helpful for teaching manuscript production and provenance. The alternating initials in red and blue and the follicle marks lead into discussion of making parchment, and lining, writing, and illuminating manuscripts. The pencil number in the lower corner allows for discussion of the modern book trade.


Leaf from a Missal.

(Unknown) Germany, c.1500. 21x26 cm.

This single parchment leaf, largely unremarkable for its textual content, demonstrates the materiality of the book. The wear marks and trimming show that it was used as a binding for a subsequent volume and cut down from its original size. In the classroom it stands in contrast to the French leaf for its sturdier parchment and rougher hand, as well as much different condition due to post-medieval use.


Printed Calendar Leaf.

(Unknown) Low Countries or Germany, c.1500. 29x27.3 cm.

This single paper leaf from an early printed book demonstrates the ways in which early print attempted to emulate medieval manuscript layout, from the larger initials and paragraph marks to the marginal annotation. In a classroom, gently feeling the impressed texture of the printing helps students understand relief printing and the fluid and intertextual progression from manuscript to print.