Thursday, 26 December 2013

Cuttings from a 13th-Century Royal Spanish Bible

A week ago I visited the current exhibition of manuscripts at Lille. It was mostly very unimpressive, with low-quality objects displayed in a bizarre setting. But it did have a few high-quality items, notably the two surviving full-page miniatures of the Liessies Gospels.

One other item especially caught my eye: a framed group of 13 cuttings from a Bible, owned by the Musée de Picardie, Amiens, with bright burnished gold backgrounds, and unusual interlace ornament on many of the extremities of the historiated initials:

"What Counts as Provenance Evidence?"

There is a detailed analysis of a variety of marks found in a single book here:
under the title "What Counts as Provenance Evidence?", on the blog of the Special Collections Department of Michigan State University. It's worth a read. The following is an extract:

Some markings are relatively straightforward and easy to understand, while others are more mysterious. How many different marks do you see?  Let’s be literal at this stage and refrain from judgment about which particular inscriptions are important for determining provenance.  I count at least 15 different potential provenance markers on these two pages alone.  I’ll highlight those below:
Post 2 Image 2
Click to enlarge

Stephen Ferguson's blogging at Princeton

I have recently found blog-posts by Stephen Ferguson at

A sample post, similar to those I post myself, is this (from here:

Shelf-marks of Sunderland books

Sunderland.shelf.markHorace. Ars poetica with commentary of Aldus Manutius (Venice, 1576) Call number: PTT 2865.311.076. [Shelf mark on verso of front free endpaper, which is marbled on recto. The front paste-down is marbled. These are the only marks of ownership.]
Sunderland.shelf.mark.De.RCharles Spencer, third Earl of Sunderland (1674-1722), his “books are easily recognizable by the bold shelf-marks written in ink on the verso of the upper cover in the upper left hand corner.” S. DeRicci, English Collectors of Books & Manuscripts (1530-1930) and Their Marks of Ownership (Cambridge, 1930), p. 39.
For more about the history of the Sunderland Library, see the record for the 18th century manuscript catalogue of the Library held at John Rylands Library:

Mapping Books: The Dispersal of the Medieval Libraries of Great Britain

I just found this interesting blog-post by Mitch Fraas:

An excerpt is below, but the full post is worth reading.

As of last week, the MLGB3's online database  included over 6,000 records for books and manuscripts owned by medieval libraries. In order to look at them in aggregate I used the ever-helpful wget utility to pull down each record in order. I was left with a gigantic mess of html with the useful data hidden within it. After extensive cleanup and parsing of the data I was able to throw the location names of the original medieval libraries as well as current owners against David Zwiefelhofer's geocoding service (which I believe uses the Yahoo API) to get longitudes and latitudes. This didn't go entirely smoothly as the names of ruined monasteries tend not to register very well in geo databases. Fortunately, there are a wealth of wikipedia entries providing detailed long./lat. information on a wide range of English historical sites and I was able to fill in the blanks.

Libraries in Medieval Great Britain (MLGB3)
Current Locations of Books from the MLGB3

Worldwide Current Location of Books in MLGB3
What most struck me from this preliminary view (I'll wait until the final MLGB3 release to make sure) is how much less movement there was than I expected. That is, if books owned by medieval libraries are any indication, the cultural patrimony of Great Britain has not moved far from its home. Over 93% (5900/6316) books from the MLGB3 data show up as being currently held in Great Britain leaving just 416 in other locations. This visualization of course elides the many movements of books between when they were cataloged or inventoried in the medieval period and when they reached their current place of residence. That being said, I wonder how a similar map of the dispersal of French or German monastic libraries would look? Are 93% still in their country of origin (loosely defined)? I doubt it.


Monday, 9 December 2013

Bodleian, MS. Auct. D. 4. 6, revisited

Exactly three years ago I wrote a blog post questioning the often-asserted link between Bodleian, MS. Auct. D. 4. 6 and Roger, abbot of Reading Abbey from 1156 to 1165.

My skepticism has now received support in a recent publication by Nigel Morgan:
"The litany not only contradicts the destination claimed for the book, but also its date. ... In the litany ... there is an erasure of the fourth saint following the three English martyrs Alban, Oswald, and Edmund. There is little doubt that the erasure is of ... Thomas of Canterbury. The litany text ... must therefore be after 1173, and the connection of the book at the time of its making with Abbot Roger and Reading must inevitably be completely abandoned. ... neither Abbot Roger nor his institution was its original destinee"
Nigel J. Morgan, English Monastic Litanies of the Saints after 1000, II: Pontefract–York, Henry Bradshaw Society, 120 (London, 2013), p.33.

The old image-link seems to be broken, but a large version of the image is available here.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Soranzo - Canonici - Sneyd

Today I learned that there will be an exhibition in Florence next year, at the Galleria dell'Accademia, called La fortuna dei Primitivi: Tesori d'arte dalle collezioni italiane fra Sette e Ottocento, dedicated to 18th- and 19th-century Italian collecting of "primitives".

It will include a section about Lord Ashburnham and another about Matteo Canonici. This reminds me of a manuscript that sold at Bonham's in London a year ago:

The foliation in the middle of the lower margin shows (not mentioned in the Bonham's catalogue) that it comes from the collection of Jacopo Soranzo (1686-1761):

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Philip Bliss (1787-1857) and Rebekah Bliss (1749-1819)

Earlier this year a fine Flemish Book of Hours with an interesting  early 19th-century provenance was sold in London. A faint pencil inscription on a flyleaf:
Inscription, as it appears in normal light
at first appeared to read:
"Missal of considerable 
delicacy and beauty.
cost Mr. Bliss [£25 ??]"
This immediately suggested Philip Bliss, the well -known Oxford antiquarian, book-collector, and member of the Roxburghe Club. 

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Catalogi bibliothecarum antiqui

I recently found that Gustav Heinrich Becker's Catalogi bibliothecarum antiqui (Bonn, 1885) is available online.

It provides transcriptions of more than 130 pre-1200 lists of books / library catalogues, some very short, some very extensive. Many had been printed before, and references to the earlier editions are cited.  Here, for example, are the pages with the catalogue for Durham, preceded by the end of Arras, and followed by the beginning of Bec:

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Fritz Hasselmann (d.1894)

In my first blog-post two years ago I described the mark of Fritz Hasselmann, as found on several items at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin.

Since then Lugt's Marques has gone online, so we now have far more information about Hasselmann, the sales of his collections, and a photographic example of his ink-stamp. Here are two more examples, one with the end of my thumb, as a guide to its scale:

The online Lugt entry for Ed. Schultze (also discussed in my old blog-post) has no new information, but includes a colour reproduction of his ink stamp. Another example online comes from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum.

More on Otto Ege and His Mounts

As a result of the previous post mentioning Otto Ege, a reader has brought to my attention a new book of which I was unaware: Scott J. Gwara, Ege's Manuscripts: A Study of Ege's Manuscript Collections, Portfolios, and Retail Trade, with a Comprehensive Handlist of Manuscripts Collected or Sold (2013) available from

I also thought it might be useful to post images of a couple more Ege mounts ("mats" in American English), as no such images seem to be online apart from those in the article by Barbara Shailor, cited and re-used in the previous post (excuse the dark blotches -- they are caused by dust particles inside my camera):

The Church Congress Exhibitions

I occasionally encounter a manuscript with a circular paper label printed in blue with the words "Church Congress Exhibition", or occasionally "Ecclesiastical Art Exhibition", and a number added by hand:

Friday, 18 October 2013

Ashburnham Appendix and other catalogues

In response to the post about the Ashburnham-Libri manuscripts catalogue, one reader asked me about catalogues of the other Ashburnham manuscripts. The catalogues privately printed by Ashburnham himself are still not all available online, but each is represented online by at least one copy of the relevant auction catalogue.

Catalogue of the Portion of the Famous Collection of Manuscripts, the Property of the Rt. Hon. the Earl of Ashburnham, Known as the Barrois Collection ... Which Will be Sold by Auction ... Sotheby, Wilkinson, and Hodge ... 10th day of June, 1901, and Four Following Days: 
There are also various related publications, notably:

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A newly discovered leaf written by Sanvito

Much has been written about Otto Ege in the past two decades: see, for example, the articles by Barbara Shailor, ‘Otto Ege: His Manuscript Fragment Collection and the Opportunities Presented by Electronic Technology’ (2003) (available online), and by Fred Porcheddu, ‘Otto F. Ege: Teacher, Collector, Biblioclast’ (2006) (also available online), as well as the Ege project website at Denison University.

The most recent flurry of interest in Ege has been prompted by Lisa Fagin Davis’s entertaining and informative Manuscript Road Trip blog-posts here, here, here, and here (and doubtless more will follow).

Ege had a distinctive way of ruling his mounts in red ink; this image comes from the Shailor article cited above, and is also used by Fagin Davis in one of her blog-posts:

Coincidentally, a few weeks before reading her blog-post, I was looking through a collection of leaves which were waiting to be catalogued by Christie's, London, and recognised that they are in characteristic red-ruled Ege mounts.

One of the smallest leaves (c.120×80mm) in the Christie's group contains the start of the Hours of the Cross, with a rubric and incipit in elegant capitals in alternating colours:

Friday, 11 October 2013

The Post-Medieval Owners of "The Bohun Bible"

The literature on the "Bohun" Bible suggests that the parent volume was written perhaps for a nunnery, perhaps in East Anglia, and was perhaps volume III of a four-volume set of which volume I is now British Library, Royal MS. 1 E.iv.

The last leaf of the parent volume of the dispersed leaves, now Bodleian Library, MS. Lat. bib. b. 4, f. 46v (formerly f. 413v in the parent volume), is inscribed “Richardus Legh me possidet Anno Domini 1613” (the first four words are repeated below this, but are crossed through in both cases); this is presumably Richard Legh, b. 1549(?), of East Hall, High Legh, Cheshire, or Richard Legh, b. 1554, of West Hall, High Legh. Extensive genealogies of these families can be found here.
Relative locations of Lymme, High Legh, and Nether Tabley
Below the Legh inscription on the Bodleian leaf is:
"Ex libris Petri Leicester de Nether-Tabley: qui liber mihi Dono datur a Richardo Maria Dumvill de Limme Armigero, 27 die Martii, Anno Domini 1665.”

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Post-Medieval Provenance of the Taymouth Hours (BL, Yates Thompson MS. 13)

I have recently read and reviewed Kathryn A. Smith, The Taymouth Hours: Stories and the Construction of Self in Late Medieval England (The British Library: London, 2012).

I have often argued that the post-medieval and even modern provenance of medieval manuscripts can provide valuable clues to their medieval origins and owners, and the Taymouth Hours may be a case in point. I will consider the manuscript's provenance in two parts: here considering its post-medieval homes, working backwards from the present, and then its origin patron in a subsequent post.

The manuscript was bequeathed to the British Museum by the widow of Henry Yates Thompson in 1941. It had escaped being sold in the three Yates Thompson auctions of 1919-1921 because Yates Thompson had given it to her a few years earlier: in 1917 he inscribed its flyleaf as follows:
"This volume, one of the
choicest of my English MS.S.
I gave to my dear wife on her
birthday Jan[uar]y 10th 1917 to
mitigate her grief at the
news that I intended to sell
my collection of 100 illumi-
nated MSS.
                 [signed:] HYT."
The first flyleaf has Yates Thompson's bookplate annotated, as usual, with the acquisition details:
"57": the number of the MS in Thompson's collection,
"nee.e.e": the price he paid, using his price-code "bryanstole", i.e. "£500 0s. 0d."
"Earl of Ashburnham May 1897": the source and date of acquisition.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

A Fragment formerly owned by Guilford and Phillipps, part II

[Continued from this post]
Looking at the original Phillipps auction catalogues from 1903 and 1911 it was possible to locate the following entries:
"858  Novum Testamentum. Pars Expositionis Bedæ in Actus Apostolorum, manuscript of the tenth century, written in double columns, on vellum, with the book-plate of Lord Guilford, half morocco                     folio X Cent"
"71  Bedæ Expositionis in Actus Apostolorum Fragmentum, manuscript of the eleventh century, written in double columns, on vellum, with the book-plate of Lord Guilford                                                         folio XI Cent"
In the 1903 sale it was bought by "Brewer" (or perhaps Bremer?) for £1, and in 1911 by J[acques] Rosenthal for £4 5s. Presumably Brewer/Bremer failed to pay for the item, or returned it for re-sale.

This tells us that the manuscript was a bound volume until at least 1911, although incomplete, and that there was definitive proof of having come from the Guilford library, as suggested by the Phillipps catalogue at no. 10614.  This description does not mention that the manuscript was a fragment, so the "fragm." of the first description indicated that it was an incomplete codex. The Schoenberg database does not include single leaves, however old or interesting, but it does include incomplete codices, and the present item can be found there by searching with "Bede" as author and "Guilford" in the Provenance field (I prefer to use the old interface, which is much more user-friendly than the "improved" one).

As usual, the results of searching the Schoenberg database are very hit-and-miss (hits often turn out to be misses), but two are correct:

Payne & Foss, Catalogue of Manuscripts, Books Printed on Vellum ..., February 1830, item 1053:
"1053  Bedae, (Venerabilis,) Expositio in Actum Apostolorum. A very ancient Manuscript of the Twelfth Century upon vellum, in double columns, from Lord Guilford's Collection, 3l. 3s     --     --    --     folio"
R.H. Evans, Valuable and extensive library of the late Earl of Guilford, Part the Third28 February, 1829, lot 410:
"410  Venerabilis Bedæ Expositionis in Actum Apostolorum, A VERY ANTIENT MANUSCRIPT, ON VELLUM"
A marginal note in ink in the catalogue "α/o/o" indicates that there was a reserve of £1 on the lot; it was bought by Thorpe for £1 3s.

Thus we have confirmed that the manuscript comes from the collection of Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford (1766-1827) part of whose library was sold in auctions from 1828 to 1835.
Frederick North, 5th Earl of Guilford. © National Portrait Gallery, London

Saturday, 16 February 2013

John Batayle and the Smithfield Decretals

The Smithfield Decretals (British Library, Royal MS. 10 E.iv) is an exceptionally large (c.450 x 285mm.) and lavish (including more than 600 narrative bas-de-page scenes) copy of the Decretals of Gregory IX with the gloss of Bernard of Parma, thought to have been written in southern France c.1300, with decoration and an extra prefatory quire added in England some decades later.

The BL website has an online description with partial digitization and a description with full digitization.
The main reason I found fault with a recent monograph on the Taymouth Hours is that it tends to treat hypotheses as facts. One of several such hypotheses is the proposal that the Smithfield Decretals was made for man called John Batayle who was a canon of St Bartolomew's, Smithfield, in the last quarter of the 14th century. This may be true, or it may not.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Catalogues de vente numérisés contenant des manuscrits médiévaux

Jean-Luc Deuffic has added an extremely useful page called Catalogues de vente numérisés contenant des manuscrits médiévaux to one of his websites. I am sure that as I explore the catalogues he has located online it will prompt more posts here in due course.

Friday, 8 February 2013

A Manuscript from an Unidentified Abbey

While looking through Alphonse Labitte,  L'Art de l'enluminure: métier - histoire - pratique (Paris, [1893]) for the previous post, this caption caught my eye:

Full-page view here.
I have not been able to find out which abbey is referred to, but welcome suggestions.

Alphonse Labitte (1853- )

I occasionally encounter catalogue descriptions which mention an anonymous bookplate, variously described by different cataloguers, but recognisable from its device/motto on the scroll below the shield "EXCELSIOR":
Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, John Work Garrett Library, Gar 6

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Guglielmo Libri Catalogues Online

Anyone not familiar with Count Guglielmo Bruto Icilio Timoleone Libri-Carucci dalla Sommaia (1802-1869) will have no trouble finding biographies online, including Wikipedia's. The title of his full-length biography gives a good indication of the reasons for his fame and notoriety: P. Alessandra Maccioni-Ruju and Marco Mostert, The Life and Times of Guglielmo Libri (1802-1869), Scientist, Patriot, Scholar, Journalist and Thief: A Nineteenth-Century Story (Hilversum, 1995).

The catalogue of the Libri Collection of the 4th Earl of Ashburnham is online: A Catalogue of the Manuscripts at Ashburnham Place: Comprising a Collection Formed by Professor Libri (London, [n.d.])

The auction Catalogue of the Extraordinary Collection of Splendid Manuscripts, Chiefly Upon Vellum, in Various Languages of Europe and the East, formed by M. Guglielmo Libri, the Eminent Collector, who is Obliged to Leave London in Consequence of Ill Health, and for that Reason to Dispose of his Literary Treasures ... which will be Sold by Leigh Sotheby & John Wilknson ... Monday, 28th of March, 1859, and Seven Following Days ... is available online in at least four different copies:

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Didier Petit catalogue online

Didier Petit de Meurville (1793-1873) of Lyon was one of the major French collectors of religious art of the 19th century.

A partially annotated copy of his sale catalogue: Catalogue de la collection formée par M. Didier Petit a Lyon ... Paris, Dentu, au Palais Royal, (1843), is available through Gallica, and an unannotated one through Google Books.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

A Fragment formerly owned by Guilford and Phillipps, part I

As noted in a previous post, I spent some time this summer enquiring about medieval manuscripts in Los Angeles collections. As a result of making contact previously, few days ago Helena Vilar de Lemos sent me images of a leaf that recently entered Special Collections in the Library at Occidental College: