Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings
September 8 through January 7, 2018

Pierpont Morgan, the founding benefactor of the Morgan Library & Museum, was drawn to the beauty of gems. He acquired and later gave away large collections of valuable stones, including the legendary Star Sapphire of India to New York’s American Museum of Natural History. He also became fascinated with medieval manuscripts bound in jewel-laden covers.

Magnificent Gems: Medieval Treasure Bindings brings together for the first time the Morgan’s finest examples of these extraordinary works.  During the Middle Ages, treasure bindings were considered extreme luxuries, replete with symbolism. On a spiritual level they were valued because their preciousness both venerated and embellished the sacred texts held within. But the bindings were also meaningful on a more material level, as the sapphires, diamonds, emeralds, pearls, and garnets from which they were made served as evidence of their owner’s wealth and status.

Opening September 8, 2017, Magnificent Gems features such masterpieces as the Lindau Gospels (ca. 875), arguably the finest surviving Carolingian treasure binding. Also on display is the thirteenth-century Berthold Sacramentary, the most luxurious German manuscript of its time. In total, nine jeweled medieval works are presented, along with a number of Renaissance illuminated manuscripts and printed books in which artists elaborately depict “imagined” gems.  On view through January 7, 2018, the exhibition is installed in the Morgan’s intimate Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery, evoking the atmosphere of a medieval treasury.

“Pierpont Morgan’s collecting was shaped by three key concepts, an object’s beauty, its craftsmanship, and its historical importance,” said Colin B. Bailey, director of the Morgan Library & Museum. “Medieval treasure bindings meet these criteria in consummate fashion. The Morgan is fortunate to hold some of the world’s finest examples of these works, and we are especially pleased to bring them together in one gallery for the very first time.”


The Morgan Library & Museum
225 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10016


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