Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art

The BASIRA Project, made possible by today’s digital humanities technologies, examines the visual culture of books during the Renaissance—the period when moveable type and the printing press generated the last large change in the book as a knowledge container. How might social responses and adaptations revealed in art from that time apply to the present?

One does not have to search far to find a book in a work of Renaissance art. Books are featured in paintings, sculptures, illuminations, reliefs and prints, and in contexts both sacred and secular. Unlike other objects that have received their icono­graphical due, books (perhaps because of their ubiquity) have not yet been commented upon in detail in the scholarly iconographical literature of art history.

Operating in a border zone between art history and the history of the book, the BASIRA team hopes to to detect patterns not yet explored by assembling a searchable database of works of Renaissance art that depict books. This endeavor is made possible by the current widespread availability of visual records and database software.

Nicholas Herman (created by)
Barbara Williams Ellertson (created by)
Douglas Emery (contributed by)
Janet K. Seiz (contributed by)
Andrea Zietlow (contributed by)
"Project Background," BASIRA Project, University of Pennsylvania Libraries, accessed 10 January 2024.
External Resource