Sunday, 19 July 2015

Ormesby Manuscripts from Norwich Cathedral

The name "Ormesby" immediately suggests to any manuscripts specialist the Bodleian Library's wonderful Ormesby Psalter (MS. Douce 366), apparently given to Norwich cathedral by Robert de Ormesby in the first half of the 14th century. But there were at least two other men named Ormesby, and there are at least two other manuscripts inscribed with that name, that belonged to Norwich cathedral in the same century.

One is reasonably well known: Cambridge, University Library, MS Kk.4.3, is a 13th-century volume containing several glossed Old Testament books. It has a Norwich Cathedral press-mark "G.xxxiij" and an inscription recording its gift by W. de Ormesby, rector of St Mary in the Marsh, Norwich:
"Liber comunitatis monachor[um] Ecc[lesi]e s[an]c[t]e Trinitatis Nor-
wyci. de dono d[omi]ni .W. de Ormesby Recoris s[an]c[t]e Marie
de Marisco.
In hoc uolumine contine[n]tur. Josue. Iudicum. Ruht [sic].
Regum. Paralipomenon. Esdras. Neemias. glosati."
The image above comes from Sydney Cockerell's magisterial study of the Ormesby Psalter [1], which has ensured that this manuscript has not been overlooked in the subsequent literature, and it has recently been catalogued by Stella Panayotova [2].

The other manuscript is well known for its text, which was edited in 1859, but is much less well known for its Ormesby association.

In Neil Ker's "Medieval MSS from Norwich Cathedral Priory", TCBS, I (1949–53), pp.1–28 at p.13 (reprinted in N.R. Ker, Books Collectors and Libraries, edited by Andrew G. Watson (London and Ronceverte, [1985]), at p.256), is this:
"9 (II.2). C.xj Radulphi de fretinham monachi. Norwich Cathedral, 1.
Bartholomew Cotton's chronicle, s. xiii ex. The press-mark and inscription are reproduced in Luard's edition of Bartolomew Cotton (Rolls Series, 16).
At the end of the manuscript is the mark 'C. xix' and the name 'Ormesby'."
In Ker's more recent, detailed, description of the manuscript (Ker, MMBL, III, pp.527-29), he notes laconically:
"(added on flyleaves) [ ... ] f. 55v 'Ormisby' and below it 'Simplice sub wltu liuor latet absque tumulta Tempore quo valeat nititur vt noceat', s. xiv."

In the absence of any other explanation for the presence of here the name, it appears to be a note of ownership. Many Norwich Cathedral books have the name of their donor next to the press-mark, and so it is probably significant that the name appears adjacent to a standard Cathedral press-mark, "C.xix."

The situation is complicated by the fact that the name and press-mark here appear at the back of the volume, rather than on the first leaf, which would be the normal place. At the beginning of the text we find a slightly different press-mark, and a different name:
"C xi   Radulfi de fretinham mo[nach]i"
Ralph doubtless came from Frettenham, about 6 miles north-east of Norwich.

A late 13th-century genealogical roll of the kings of England in the British Library (Add. MS. 30079) has Fretinham's name and the shelf-mark "C xii":


A third book given by Fretinham is Cambridge, University Library, MS. Kk. 4. 20, with the Cathedral press-mark "C. iii".

We cannot at present know which Ormesby is meant by the inscription in the volume of Bartholomew Cotton's chronicle, but it is likely to be either "W. de Ormesby", rector of St Mary in the Marsh, who gave the glossed books of the Bible now in Cambridge, or Robert Ormesby, who gave the Ormesby Psalter, now at the Bodleian.

[1] S.C. Cockerell and M.R. James, Two East Anglian Psalters at the Bodleian Library, Oxford (Oxford, 1926).
[2] Paul Binski and Patrick Zutshi with Stella Panayotova, Western Illuminated Manuscripts: A Catalogue of the Collection in Cambridge University Library (Cambridge, 2011), no.115.

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