December 5, 2023 – Michael Heil
The Birth, Life, and Death of an Early Medieval Library
In the centuries after its foundation by the Irish abbot Columbanus around 613, the Italian monastery of Bobbio amassed one of the largest libraries in Western Europe. Its holdings included not only the biblical and liturgical texts required for the monastery’s religious functions, but also works of Latin literature, grammar and rhetoric, history, law, and more. This talk will explore how and why the monks of Bobbio assembled this diverse collection of books, what they did with them, and what these books reveal about the monastery’s connections and influence in the wider world. The talk will also examine the dismemberment of Bobbio’s library in the later Middle Ages and the Renaissance, a story of institutional and intellectual change with implications for historians’ efforts to reconstruct the medieval past.