Cambridge University Library


Sacred Scripts: World religions in manuscript and print

4 November 2003 to 24 April 2004

From its beginnings, writing has been closely associated with religion. The earliest forms of writing often served religious needs.

Most religious texts began as recited texts, preserved in orally transmitted form, but gradually they came to be written down and were often collected into an accepted canon. The importance of these texts meant that, as writing and the creation of documents developed, they became the inspiration for magnificent, and often highly decorated, forms of manuscripts, books and other artefacts.

This exhibition drew on the finest examples in the University Library of sacred scripts from all over the world. It included printed Buddhist scripts from the eighth century CE, which are among the earliest datable printed documents in the world and features magnificent illuminated Qur’ans and fine illustrated Christian Bibles.

It aimed to show how religious devotion has led to the creation of objects whose diversity and beauty are striking, yet whose purpose was both specific and practical.

Krsna plays his flute, 17th century Nepal 14th century block print of a Hebrew blessing Detail from a miniature illustrating the first verse of John's Gospel chapter 1 People gather at a Shinto Shrine