Community Scholars Talk:
The Earliest Illustrated Manuscripts in History: Reading and Writing the Ancient Egyptian Book
Thursday, July 12, 2018 7:00–8:00 p.m.
Prairie Trails Public Library, Burbank Illinois
Discussions of the history of the “book” focus primarily on the Middle Ages, the development of printing, and the expansion into digital media. However, “books” had existed for thousands of years prior, knowledge of which is often limited because of the tendency to restrict scholarship on such ancient books to technical and specialist publications. The result has been, until quite recently, a lopsided focus on the book in the “western” tradition, even though the invention of the “book” actually happened in the ancient Middle East and Egypt. The grand illuminations of Medieval manuscripts, while certainly worthy of the attention they have garnered, were long preceded by the illustrated manuscripts from ancient Egypt, developed at the beginning of the second millennium BC — the earliest texts in human history to be accompanied by images related directly to their content. This talk will focus on the birth of this illustrative tradition in order to reveal how these early manuscripts were made, what the illustrations meant, and how book production in ancient Egypt fits into more modern conceptions of the communications circuit through which the “lives” of books have been told.