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University of Groningen Library
University of Groningen Library Collections Special Collections

New Exhibition: Reading for Resilience. Meditation and the Book in Early Modern Europe

From:Sa 01-06-2024
Until:Th 01-08-2024
Where:University of Groningen Library, floor 3

Mindfulness and meditation are often advertised as exciting new techniques for countering stress and feelings of burnout caused by modern life. This exhibition shows that meditational practices were part of daily far before our 21st Century. Europe has an important textual and practical heritage of religious meditation teaching (lay) readers to turn inward, take care of their souls, and be energised by contact with the divine. Already in the Early Modern Period, meditation was a strategy to build resilience to cope with the hardships and challenges of life. In a shared effort, researchers of the research projects Cities of Readers (University of Groningen) and Spiritual Intermediality in the Early Modern Period (University of Hamburg) examine the practice of meditation and the medium book in early modern society.

decorative image
Ambrosius Benson, Young Woman with a Book of Hours (1532) © Louvre, Paris

The books on display here are examples of various meditation exercises that take their inspiration mostly from the Christian religion but also secular sources. The traces of reading and use which can be seen in some of the books, demonstrate that while meditation was guided by reading text, it is also a performative practice during which humans interacted with the book as an object. Reading is an activity enhanced by the font, the size and even the haptics of the books. As such these books from the Special Collections of the University of Groningen Library are reflections of this rich heritage and how early modern humans dealt with emotional regulation when confronted with death, sickness, wars, floods, fires, or the stress of daily life.

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