The Vatican Library in the Counter-Reformation

In the 2017 Lyell Lectures, Paul Nelles enters the social and material world of the Vatican Library in the late sixteenth century. At the vanguard of the Counter-Reformation, the library gradually adapted to its new role as an instrument of papal policy and hub of ecclesiastical reform. The lectures locate the Vatican Library within a constellation of new state-sponsored collections in early modern Europe. Framed around the vibrant fresco cycles that graced the new library quarters constructed under Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590), the lectures visit specific episodes in sixteenth-century cultural history to probe the dynamic of script and print within the space of the Vatican Library. Particular attention is given to the individuals, practices, and working tools that intersected with libraries in this period.


The first Lyell Lecture, Libraries, Space, and Power will be delivered on Thursday, 4 May 2017 at 5pm in the Lecture Theatre, Weston Library, followed by a drinks reception at 6.15pm in Blackwell Hall.

The Vatican Library and the Counter-Reformation, a Series of Five Lectures

About The Lyell Lectures at Oxford University

The Lyell readership in bibliography at Oxford University is endowed by a bequest from James Patrick Ronaldson Lyell (1871-1948), a solicitor, book collector and bibliographer. Each year since 1952, a distinguished scholar has been elected to deliver the lectures on any topic of bibliography, broadly conceived.

J.P.R. Lyell lived in Oxford and (on his retirement) in Abingdon from 1927 until the end of his life. Even as a young man he was interested in collecting early printed books, and he made a study of early book illustration in Spain. In the 1930s he began collecting medieval manuscripts, eventually accumulating some 250 of these, of which one hundred were bequeathed to the Bodleian Library. A further series of some 65 manuscripts, mostly post-medieval, were bought by the Library from his executors. The first Lyell lectures, for the academic year 1952-3, were delivered by Neil R. Ker, university reader in palaeography and fellow of Magdalen College.

Lyell Lectures 2017

Monday, May 1, 2017 in
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