Writing on Hands: Memory and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

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Writing on Hands: Memory and Knowledge in Early Modern Europe was part of the Exhibitions at the Folger. Curated by Claire Sherman, it opened December 13, 2000 and closed on March 4, 2001.

The exhibition catalog can be purchased from the Folger Shop.

The hand, while universally familiar, is a novel subject for an exhibition. Vital to human experience, the hand is involved in touching, feeling, acting, writing, creating, thinking, counting, remembering, and speaking. In visual communication, the hand is a universal symbol able to convey and reveal different types of information essential to human activity.

From the earliest pictorial records to the present day, representations of the hand, independent of the body, present a wide array of imagery dealing with both the external/material/visible and internal/spiritual/invisible qualities of human existence. From the profuse array of available imagery, the exhibition focused on representation of the hand inscribed with, or surrounded by, systems of graphic signs. The 70-80 works in the exhibition embraced such fields as anatomy, religion, philosophy, psychology, music theory, mathematics, literature, emblematics, and the occult sciences.

Lenders to the exhibition included