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.

After the 4th Earl of Ashburnham's death in 1878, the 5th Earl sold his father's "Appendix" collection en bloc to Henry Yates Thompson in 1897. The 4th earl had apparently acquired it in 1866 (see below): according to an annotated copy of the "Appendix" collection catalogue in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library, the Taymouth Hours was "exchanged for a hunting picture with Lord Breadalbane".

The manuscript takes its familiar name from its pre-Ashburnham owners, the Campbells of Breadalbane at Taymouth Castle (at the mouth of Loch Tay in central Scotland).
Location of Taymouth Castle, Scotland
An 18th-century Bread'albane bookplate stuck to the upper pastedown, inscribed in pencil at the top with the date "1866", presumably by the Earl of Ashburnham:
The bookplate uses heraldry still evident at the Castle, although with a small difference in the lower right quadrant:

While at Taymouth Castle, it was perhaps kept in the Library, with its magnificent ceiling:

But what can we deduce about the manuscript's whereabouts before the 18th century?

It is well known that the manuscript seems to have had a Scottish owner in the 16th century, because many leaves are annotated in Scots in a 16th-century hand. Also at some point in the 16th century a shelfmark was inscribed at the bottom of the first page of the calendar:
"Shelf 29 numb: i -"
A very similar shelfmark, of the same form and possibly by the same hand, appears in another manuscript from Taymouth Castle, a Scots Psalter (BL, Egerton MS. 2899):
"Shelf 7 - numb: 26"
"pr: 6. Sh: 2 No 37"
Here the 16th-century shelfmark is crossed-through, and superseded by an 18th-century one.

A third manuscript from the library at Taymouth Castle, The Buik off Allexander the Conqueroure (BL, Additional MS. 40732) has equivalent 16th- and 18th-century shelfmarks written by the same hands:
"Shelf 28 Number i" and
"pr: 6 Sh: 2 No - 36", 
indicating that this and the Psalter were shelved next to each other by the end of the 18th century, in Press 6, on Shelf 2, at positions 36 and 37.

Thus all three books were not only at Taymouth Castle in the 18th century, when bookplates were added, but had apparently been together since the 16th century and had descended together from one owner to the next for at least three centuries. Although the Taymouth Hours does not contain explicit evidence of its pre-1700 owners, the other two manuscripts do.

The Psalter was owned in the early 16th century by Colin Campbell (d.1523), 3rd Laird of Glenorchy, a direct ancestor of the Breadalbanes, and The Buik off Allexander the Conqueroure is likewise inscribed "This buik pertenis to ane honorabill man Duncan Campbell of Glenorchy 1579". The evidence of the 16th-century shelfmarks, therefore, suggests that the Taymouth Hours had belonged to Duncan Campbell, and perhaps also to Colin Campbell and their earlier ancestors.

The 16th-century Scots provenance of the Hours may be a clue to its original patron, as will be discussed in a subsequent post.

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