Otto Ege

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Otto F. Ege (1888–1951)[1] was a teacher, lecturer, bookseller, and well-known book-breaker. He worked for many years at the Cleveland Institute of Art where he served as Chair of the Department of Teacher Training,[2] instructor of Lettering, Layout, and Typography,[2] and Dean.[1] He was also employed by the School of Library Science at Case Western Reserve University as a lecturer on the History of the Book,[1] and instructor of History and Art of the Book.[2]

Otto Ege's greatest fame, however, came as a result of his book-breaking. Over a period of decades in the early 20th century, Ege systematically removed the pages of some 50 illuminated medieval manuscripts,[1] and divided them into 40 unique compilation boxes,[3] commonly referred to as "Otto Ege Portfolios". These portfolios were in turn sold and distributed world wide.[3] Although strong profits were made from each sale, Ege defended his actions by stating, "Surely to allow a thousand people 'to have and to hold' an original manuscript leaf, and to get a thrill and understanding that comes only from actual and frequent contact with these art heritages, is justification enough for the scattering of fragments."[4]

Over the last several years, Prof. Peter Stoicheff of the University of Saskatchewan has been working to locate all existing Ege Portfolios, and to foster co-operation from their respective owners in creating an "Ege Medieval Manuscript Database" with the ultimate goal being the digital reconstruction of the complete books.[5]

Ege's personal collection, including 50 unbroken manuscript books, was in 2015 acquired by the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library (part of Yale University Library).[6]

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References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d "Otto F. Ege Collection of Fifty Original Manuscript Leaves", University of South Carolina, University Libraries Digital Collections
  2. ^ a b c "Barbara A. Shailor to lecture at Wells College", Wells Book Arts Center
  3. ^ a b "Scattered Leaves: the Otto Ege Medieval Manuscript Collection", University of Saskatchewan.
  4. ^ Fred Porcheddu, "Otto F. Ege: Teacher, Collector, Biblioclast", Art Libraries Society of North American, 6 May 2006
  5. ^ "Symposium to look at ancient pages", University of Saskatchewan On Campus News, Volume 12, Number 17, April 29, 2005
  6. ^ Mike Cummings, "Beinecke Library acquires ‘treasure trove’ of medieval manuscripts from a famed ‘book breaker’", YaleNews, November 15, 2015.

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