Research Community

Penn Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies has close ties with several programs, research initiatives, and centers at Penn and beyond.


BASIRA (Books as Symbols in Renaissance Art) is a new, open-access online database of representations of books and other textual documents in the figurative arts between approximately 1300 and 1600 CE, the period encompassing the advent of print culture in Europe and its neighboring regions. Users anywhere can browse and query thousands of images of books from a constantly expanding dataset. Dozens of aspects of a book’s depiction can be searched, including details of its binding, bookmarks, contents, and position. In addition, users may search for the particulars of who or what is interacting with the book, and how that action is taking place.

Over time, we plan to expand the chronological and geographic reach of this resource, making it a central hub for historic depictions of the book. As a project, BASIRA aims to foster connections between scholars, curators, conservators, and all other persons interested in book history and the visual arts. We encourage you to explore the data base for research and teaching, propose new artworks for inclusion through our online portal, and contact us with any questions or remarks.


The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) brings manuscript culture, modern technology, and people together to bring access to and understanding of our intellectual heritage locally and around the world. Simply put, SIMS acts as a think-tank for manuscript studies in the digital age.

At the core of SIMS is the Lawrence J. Schoenberg collection of manuscripts, which was donated to the Penn Libraries in 2011 as part of a landmark gift establishing the Institute—the largest donation of its kind in the history of the library. Closely associated with this is our flagship digital project, also established by Larry Schoenberg: the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts. This free, open-access resource enables scholars and enthusiasts to trace the provenance of manuscripts from their origins up to today, and has a large, global user community. Every year, SIMS hosts a variety of visiting fellows on a rotating basis, ranging from graduate students to senior scholars; their presence forms a key aspect of the institute’s vibrant intellectual life.

Penn Material Texts

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is interested in all aspects of how texts take material form and circulate in the world, from printed books, manuscripts, scrolls, and tablets, to e-readers, websites, hard disks, and server farms; from illuminations, woodcuts, and engravings, to GIFs and TIFFs; from title pages, flyleaf advertisements, and dealer catalogues, to listservs and email signatures. Speakers also routinely discuss printing and publishing histories, authorship, reception, piracy, and other themes related to the communications circuits within which these texts circulate.

Participants (including faculty, librarians, graduate and undergraduate students, booksellers and anyone else interested) come from a wide range of disciplines. The workshop is associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

Penn Center for Italian Studies

Italian Studies at Penn, part of the Francophone, Italian and Germanic Studies Department (FIGS), embraces research and teaching concerning agents, people and institutions–with related linguistic, intellectual and artistic objects and media–mostly originating from Italian-speaking geographical areas and featuring relationships with the Italian language, its dialects, and the Latinate tradition, from the Medieval period to today.  

Collegium Institute

The Collegium Institute is a vibrant intellectual community devoted to fostering the Catholic intellectual tradition, and the liberal tradition of humane studies more broadly, within the University of Pennsylvania community.

Founded by faculty, alumni, students, and friends of the University of Pennsylvania, the Collegium Institute draws mainstream learning into conversation with the Catholic intellectual tradition in the university community. It seeks to enrich academic culture by sharing the intellectual fruits of the Catholic tradition with a mainstream audience, both secular and religious, and by supporting scholarship, teaching, and learning that engages across the disciplines. In so doing, it also cultivates reflection on “catholic” or universal questions and on the unity of truth across the disciplines.