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New Medieval Library Inaugurated

By Barbara B. Depena, Crimson Staff Writer

Members of the Harvard community gathered yesterday in the Barker Center to celebrate the inauguration of the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library, a new translation series produced and distributed by Harvard University Press that will make the written achievements of medieval cultures more readily available to scholars and general readers in the English-speaking world.

The Medieval Library formally debuts with the publication of three works: a volume containing two separate manuscripts of secular Latin poetry, the full “Beowulf” manuscript, and The Pentateuch of Saint Jerome’s Latin translation of the Bible paired with the 17th century Douay-Rheims translation.

Three more volumes are scheduled to be published later in the spring.

The inauguration coincides with the 10th anniversary of the I. Tatti Renaissance Library and the 100th anniversary of the Loeb Classical Library.

The Medieval Library is modeled after the 512-volume Loeb Classical Library and was born from the initiative of Classics Professor Jan M. Ziolkowski.

When Ziolkowski was named Director of the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in 2007, he expressed his desire to fill an existing gap in the collections of the I. Tatti and Loeb libraries and create a defined space for medieval literature within the academic community.

Ziolkowski was in attendance at the celebration event.

He expressed his gratitude to the Harvard University Press for their support and vocalized his vision for the Medieval Library.

“I would like [the Medieval Library to give hope to scholars just starting their career and help them generate ideas for their research,” he said.

“I hope that [this series] will foster an environment in which the works can be read and appreciated for their beauty.”

Ziolkowski also noted that the creation of this series is an affront to the belief that the humanities are in danger.

“I sometimes worry that we are living in dark times for the humanities,” he said.

“But this cannot happen, because if we lose the humanities, we lose our humaneness.”

Director of the Harvard University Library Robert C. Darnton ’60 and Founder and General Editor of the I Tatti Renaissance Library James Hankins were also in attendance. Both praised Ziolkowski’s initiative and the collection’s significance within the academic community.

“[This new collection] is making classics live again to become part of a growing world,” Darnton said.

Hankins also addressed the longevity of humanities studies and the contribution that the Medieval Library presents.

“The entire Renaissance is built on the belief that the classics were going downhill and in reviving Latin and Greek [works] you’ll have [another] Renaissance, I hope,” he said.

—Staff writer Barbara B. DePena can be reached at

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Humanities DivisionLibraries