Scholar discusses medieval manuscripts

Katie Huntley

Speaker focuses on life of controversial American collector

Professor A.S.G. Edwards, world-renowned British textual scholar, speaks about the life and works of American book collector Otto Ege on the 10th floor of the University Library yesterday. Sam Twarek | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Otto Ege spent more than 14 years as a successful book collector, especially interested in medieval manuscripts.

But he did more than just collecting. He cut out pages, or fragments, of the books to resell them as leaves or as part of a portfolio.

“Ege was a collector and a vendor,” said A.S.G. Edwards, British medieval and textual scholar, who presented a collection of manuscripts in the University Library’s 10th floor Read Special Collections classroom last night. “His selling of the fragments brought about a question of ethics.”

Edwards’ speech, titled “The Creation of Manuscript Fragments: The Life and Works of Otto Ege,” was co-sponsored by the English department, the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Institute of Bibliography and Editing. About 30 people attended this free event.

The speech mainly focused on the story of Ege’s life and his controversial career.

Debate followed the speech, questioning if the destruction of art for profit is ethical or not. Although he recognized both sides, Edwards noted that Ege’s career made fragmenting possible for many other 20th century collectors.

“Ege was one of the first people to do this in a commercialized, systematic way,” Edwards said. “I think he really wanted ordinary people to be able to get their hands on a manuscript.”

Ege, who was former dean of Cleveland School of Art and an instructor in library science at Case Western Reserve University, wrote relatively little.

“He seemed to establish himself as a local authority on typography and book arts,” Edwards said.

The topic was especially important to Kent State because the library is one of few that owns several of Ege’s portfolios, according to libraries and media services.

“It is interesting to hear about something quite unusual in Kent, Ohio,” English professor Susanna Fein said. “These documents quietly reside in the special collections here.”

Contact libraries and information services reporter Katie Huntley at [email protected].