Sunday 30 March 2014

Otto Ege's Manuscripts: Two Recent Publications

Otto Ege (1888-1951) in 1923 [source]
In the coming weeks I intend to write a series of blog-posts concerning discoveries made on visits to libraries in and around Los Angeles. In some of these collections I encountered leaves that had previously been owned by Otto Ege and, in order to write them up, I decided it would be worth getting a copy of a recent book, mentioned in a previous post:
Scott J. Gwara, Otto Ege's Manuscripts: A Study of Ege's Manuscript Collections, Portfolios, and Retail Trade, with a Comprehensive Handlist of Manuscripts Collected or Sold (De Brailes Publishing: University of South Carolina, 2013), xii + 360pp.

The book is divided into three main sections:

  • a series of 5 chapters, some with sub-sections, concerning Ege's background; the three main phases of his collecting; his trade in manuscript leaves; and printed sources of information about his manuscripts (pp.1-80)
  • a series of Appendices concerning his various portfolios of manuscript leaves, including the famous Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts (referred to throughout as FOL) (pp.95-201)
  • 99 b&w figures (pp.214-299)
Because parts of the subject-matter of main text have been covered by previous publications (acknowledged frequently in the footnotes, and listed in the Bibliography), it is likely that the most useful part of the book to most users will be Appendix X: "Handlist of Manuscripts and Fragments Collected or Sold by Otto F. Ege" (pp.113-201), in the form of a table in which are listed 325 items, with summaries of their contents, a list of institutional collections that own the item or leaves from it, the location of published (hardcopy) reproductions (including the present volume, cited in bold), and further published references (de Ricci's Census, auction and dealer catalogues, etc.).

A sample page of the Handlist looks like this:

In the "Print Illustrations" column the reference to "Bindle et al." is to a book I did not know about until it was brought to my attention by Prof. Gwara; it is available as a print-on-demand in hardcopy, but is also freely available online in its entirety:

It consists of images of a complete portfolio of Fifty Original Leaves, providing a very useful aide mémoire to most of Ege's most famous dismembered books, with copies of Ege's own printed descriptions; a typical opening looks like this:

The two publications together form an indispensable guide to Ege's manuscripts: one illustrating all the most commonly encountered leaves, the other a comprehensive guide to these leaves plus hundreds more. The Gwara Handlist, in particular, is sure to become the standard numbering system by which Ege's codices, leaves, and fragments are referred to in future (including this blog).

Three useful supplementary sections in the Gwara book are:
  • a bibliography (pp.81-92)
  • 10 indexes (pp.301-349, 355-360)
  • 2 concordances (pp.350-353)
For anyone who suspects that they have encountered an ex-Ege leaf, but are unsure, some of the indexes will be invaluable: for example, one lists his leaves by their dimensions (pp.337-40), and another lists them by number of their columns and lines per page (pp.341-43). Thus, for example, when presented with this leaf:
which has 36 lines per page, one sees that it can only match Handlist no.52, which is indexed as having 34-39 lines per page; HL52 is a copy of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita, and comparison with Gwara's figs. 3 and 62 allows one to confirm that this is a leaf from that manuscript.

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