Saturday, 10 November 2018

The Brummer Gallery Archive IV: Leaves From The Arenberg Psalter

On the same page as the most recent blog post about the Brummer photo albums is a manuscript miniature with a very distinctive shape, shown above, with a detail here:

Saturday, 3 November 2018

More Manuscripts from the Chateau d'Anet, at Glasgow

Almost 20 years ago I started a website to illustrate marks of ownership, including those characteristic of the Chateau d'Anet.

Jean-Luc Deufic later created an immeasurably more professional site, with a list of all the Chateau d'Anet books known to him, with links to other sites, images, etc. I rarely encounter an Anet book that he does not already know about, but one was the Duprat Bible at Boston Public Library, discussed here.

Saturday, 27 October 2018

Cuttings From "The Property of a Gentleman" in 1923 [II]

In a previous post I connected a 1923 auction catalogue with some cuttings at the Free Library Philadelphia, and suggested that I might try to compile a complete list at some later date.

I have now been given the impetus to try to compile such a list by two things: first by the fact that I have found a few more of these cuttings in other collections, and second, by the fact that François Avril has contacted me to say that he has discovered the origin of many of these cuttings; I hope he will publish his findings in due course.

Sunday, 30 September 2018

The Brummer Gallery Archive III: A Bohemian(?) Crucifixion Miniature

At the left edge of the page above, introduced at the top of a previous post, is a Crucifixion miniature, apparently from a late 15th-century German or Bohemian Missal:

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Illuminated Manuscripts from the Collection of Christopher Cone and Stanley J. Seeger

A short post today, simply to mention that there are five illuminated manuscript items buried within the Cone - Seeger sale at Sotheby's on 30 October.

Lot 154 belongs to a group of cuttings I have been working on for some time; it belonged to John Ruskin:

Lot 157 is particularly intriguing for both its iconography and its text:

Lot 158 is charming, and potentially of some importance for its text:

The main Sotheby's sale of medieval manuscripts will be on 4 December.

Saturday, 22 September 2018

The Brummer Gallery Archive II: The Budé Bible

Last week we found an illuminated manuscript classified, because of its binding, under the heading "LEATHER". The image above is a page from the "PAINTINGS" section of one of the Brummer photobooks. At first sight it looks like a jumble, and it is, but taking the images one by one, several manuscripts can be recognised. I will look at some of them, in separate posts.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

The Brummer Gallery Archive I: An Antiphonary from Regensburg

I have very recently become aware of the archive of the Brummer Gallery [Wikipedia], New York, now held by the Metropolitan Museum. Medieval manuscripts were a very small part of their business, but some of them are of great interest; I anticipate doing at least three blog posts.

A nice example is on the page above, from the Gallery's scrapbook of sold items. Under the heading "Miscellaneous - Leather" it includes five small photos of bookbindings, and three of the insides of the respective books.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Leaves from a 14th-Century Picard(?) Book of Hours

This historiated initial is on a leaf now at The Met in New York. It comes from a manuscript several of whose leaves have appeared in dealer and auction catalogues from about 1930 to 2001.

Saturday, 1 September 2018

Au Vélin d'or [II]

The other item in the 1929 catalogue that caught my eye is this:
Described as St Peter holding a key, in red green and yellow, on a leaf 26×23cm:

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Au Vélin d'or [I]

I want to check an ambiguous reference to some items bought from "Barroux" in 1929 or 1930, perhaps from a catalogue no. 24. After some effort I determined that this probably refers to Robert Barroux, whose Paris bookselling firm was called "Au Vélin d'or". But copies of the catalogues are apparently very rare, to judge by records on Worldcat.

A copy of Catalogue 23, from 1929, is at the IRHT in Paris, and Hanno Wijsman kindly made a scan of it for me; the front cover is shown above. It turns out that the items I am looking for are not in this catalogue, but I recognise two other items that are included, on which I will do two short blog posts.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

The Goodspeed Bible (II)

The recently-published catalogue of the Rouse manuscripts at UCLA lists the five portions of the Goodspeed Bible that I had identified by 2010, and also refers to the Psalms section, which I did not mention in my original blog post because I did not at that time know where it was.

Bill Stoneman had alerted me and the Rouses to its existence; it is known to have belonged to Philip Hofer, because he refers to it on a flyleaf of his Esdras III portion of the Bible:
"P. H[ofer] personally owns the Book of Psalms M.S (section) from this same large Bible MS."
As the whereabouts of the Psalms section was neither mentioned in the catalogue description nor in any of the bibliography of the Esdras section, I assumed that Hofer had sold the Psalms section (as he did with many other manuscripts) at some point before his death.

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Mapping MMBL

Many readers will know of Neil Ker's invaluable Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries (5 vols, 1969-2002), often abbreviated to "MMBL", which, in about 3000 pages, aimed to provide catalogue descriptions for all uncatalogued medieval manuscripts in British institutional libraries, i.e. those
  • in Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales, but not Ireland)
  • not in private collections (e.g. Holkham Hall, Arundel Castle, etc.)
  • not already catalogued (e.g. at the BL, Bodleian, and Oxbridge colleges, although many of these institutions are included because, for example, several Oxbridge colleges have acquired manuscripts since the publication of their M.R. James or H.O. Coxe catalogues)

Sunday, 29 July 2018

The Use of the Word "Fragments"

The purpose of language is to convey a concept from the writer or speaker to the reader or listener. The more precise the terminology used, the more accurately concepts will be conveyed.

Thus, if you want to convey to your reader/listener the concept of a poodle, it is better to use the word "poodle" than "dog", "quadruped", or "animal", which -- although they are not wrong -- are increasingly less precise than "poodle", and therefore convey diminishing amounts of useful information.

Monday, 16 July 2018

The Goodspeed Bible (I)

My fourth-ever blog post, back in December 2010, concerned a dismembered 14th-century Italian illuminated manuscript, which I named "The Goodspeed Bible" because it was apparently broken-up by Goodspeed's, the Boston bookshop, around 1935.

Saturday, 7 July 2018

An Addendum to the de Silva Library

[image courtesy of Sokol Books]
I recently received a copy of a catalogue of incunabula offered by Sokol Books (link to full PDF), in which no. 33 is described as having the bookplate of Hercules de Silva (not reproduced in the catalogue).

Sunday, 1 July 2018

"Ex Musæo Huthii"

My previous two posts concern the provenance of an Apocalypse manuscript owned by Henry Huth. As with most books from the Huth library, it has an oval gilt leather bookplate like the one above, with the legend "EX MVSÆO | HVTHII".

Saturday, 16 June 2018

The Tongerlo Apocalypse in the 16th and 17th Centuries

[This post continues from the previous one]

Tongerlo Abbey -- note the arms in the top left corner.
[As always, click images to enlarge]
Hanna Vorholt spent time at Tongerlo in 2004 in connection with her thesis work on their manuscript of Lambert of Saint-Omer's Liber Floridus (recently published), and following her visit she kindly gave me copies of her digital images of the handwritten catalogues of 1625, 1640, and 1707.

The 1625 catalogue has a decorative title-page:
Tongerlo Abdijarchief, MS 323
and because the contents are arranged alphabetically by author within each section, it is not hard to find the Apocalypse:
pp. 106-107
p. 107, detail
"Ioannis Euangelistæ. Apocalypsis
cum imaginibus depictis in perga-
The "1640" catalogue (I am not sure if this is the original or a copy) similarly presents no problems:
Tongerlo Abdijarchief, MS 324, p. 94
"Apocalypsis Joannis Evangelistæ in pergameno cum imaginibus"
This 1640 catalogue is the one published in 1644 by Sanderus, in his Bibliotheca Belgica manuscripta:
p.155 (detail) [source]
I could not locate the Apocalypse in Hanna's images of the 1707 catalogue, so I contacted Kees van Heijst at the Tongerlo Archive, who in turn referred my enquiry to Pierre Delsaerdt at the University of Antwerp. Each of them were very helpful but could not find the manuscript in the 1707 catalogue, either -- but this may simply be because it is incomplete.

The library of Tongerlo was dispersed in the 1820s, mainly in an auction at Antwerp in 1825, and I hoped that the Apocalypse would be easy to identify in the sale catalogue. I do not have access to a copy of this rare publication, so again I have Kees van Heijst and Pierre Delsaerdt to thank for checking it, but again they were unable to find the Apocalypse listed. As one of the library's most valuable manuscripts it was presumably sold separately.


I was going to post this blog last weekend, but I decided to wait a bit longer, because there was one more Tongerlo library catalogue to check, dating from the 16th century, now at the Royal Library, Brussels (MS 8242-43), and Dominique Vanwijnsberghe had very kindly agreed to look at it for me on Tuesday.

I did not have very high expectations, but on Tuesday evening he sent me his images, which include a list of books drawn up on 18 June 1543:
Brussels, Bibliothèque royale de Belgique, MS 8242-43
"Frater Jacobus Gerardi Antuerpianus Religiosus in
monasterio Tongerlensi hunc catalogum collegit in
gratiam omnium Studiosorum anno salutis
1543 + 18 Junij"
... in which is this entry:
"Ioannis Apostoli Apocalypsis scripta in membranis
cum figuris et Iconibus"
So, thanks to Dominique and Hanna, we have successfully traced the provenance of the manuscript at Tongerlo Abbey back to the first half of the 16th century, and can prove that it was still there a century later. Even though it does not seem to be included in the surviving part of the 1707 catalogue, the Apocalypse was surely still there in the 18th century, when it was rebound with the Abbey's arms on the spine (see previous post), and was probably there until the late 18th or early 19th century, when most of the library was dispersed.

As for the later 19th-century provenance of the volume, I have now checked the British Library's copies of Joseph Lilly catalogues for 1860-62, and not been able to identify it. But this is not surprising: when Lilly acquired the book he doubtless offered it directly to his best customer, Henry Huth, rather than advertising it for sale in a catalogue.

EDIT, 18 June 2018
Anne Korteweg reminds me that the Abbey's properties were seized by the French in 1796, and so it is quite possible that the Apocalypse left Tongerlo well before the auction in 1825.

Sunday, 3 June 2018

A Previously Unrecognised Tongerlo Provenance

The image above comes from a manuscript Apocalypse, fully digitised on the British Library website, and soon to be published as a hardcopy facsimile. I have recently been asked to contribute to the facsimile commentary a short section about the book's provenance.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

An Effaced Ink Stamp Deciphered

Two years ago I wrote about a prayerbook that had belonged to Henry Yates Thompson. I mentioned that it had an inscription apparently in Portuguese, but I did not reproduce it, except as transcribed by M.R. James:

I also did not mention, because I was unable to read it, that the inscription is adjacent to a thoroughly-effaced ink-stamp. But with some more time and effort I think I have been able to read both, and thus see how they relate to one another.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

Pietro Ursuleo - An Attribution Confirmed

A few years ago I suggested in a blog post that the script of a Psalter at the Walters Art Museum could be attributed to the scribe Pietro Ursuleo.

Sunday, 6 May 2018

The Provenance of the NYPL-Duke Bible

[Continued from the previous post]

Before turning to its origin, what is known about the later provenances of the Duke and NYPL volumes? In brief, they are as follows:

Saturday, 28 April 2018

A Manuscript Divided Between New York and North Carolina

I first became interested in the medieval manuscripts of the Bibliotheca Swaniana in the 1990s, when I encountered one at the Bodleian. At some point I compiled a list of manuscripts from the Swaniana in some rudimentary webpages, to which I added occasionally. One of the first posts I wrote after starting this blog in December 2010 concerned two MSS from the collection.

Saturday, 21 April 2018

A Cistercian Missal From the Library at from Vyšší Brod, Formerly Owned by Otto Ege

In two previous blog posts (here and here) I added to what was previously known about a well-known Cistercian Missal apparently broken-up by Otto Ege, often referred to as FOL 2, because leaves of it were included as no.2 in his portfolios of Fifty Original Leaves.

Saturday, 31 March 2018


Mentioning a price-code in a recent post, I realised that I have not yet mentioned on this blog that there is a now a second edition, much expanded, published last year, of of The Price-Codes of the Book-Trade, whose first edition (2010) I described here.

At an eye-watering $175 for a 90-page octavo I doubt that many readers of this blog will buy their own copy, but it may be worth finding out where a library copy can be consulted. Worldcat lists about 20 copies in the US, 3 in the UK, one in Canada and one in Australia. There are certainly others in research libraries; in London, the Warburg Institute has a copy, for example.

Here are a few images to give a flavour of the contents (as usual, click the images to enlarge and make the text readable). From the Introduction:
From the main body of the book:
From the Afterword:
And here are the full title-page details (the choice of title was not mine):

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Cuttings at the Free Library, From "The Property of a Gentleman" in 1923

Looking recently in a Sotheby's catalogue from 26 March 1923, and two following days, I realised that the present whereabouts of a large number of cuttings could be identified quite easily. This provides a nice example of how a single solid clue can be pursued to reveal a great deal more.

The clue in this case is the description of some distinctive iconography.

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Henry Bradshaw (1831-1886)


The above statement, by Henry Bradshaw, could be the official Creed of the provenance researcher.

When discussing cataloguing, I sometimes tell people that I think that the single most important thing a cataloguer can tell their reader about a manuscript is its collation. (This is partly, but not exclusively, because the physical structure of leaves and bifolia is one of the few features of a manuscript that usually cannot be conveyed by photography). People who study manuscripts -- and early printed books -- seem to fall into two camps: on one hand there are those who see collation as a mechanical task, like measuring the leaves and counting the number of lines, and on the other hand are those who really understand how much a book's physical structure can tell them about its manufacture, and know how to use this powerful tool to inform their work. I won't go into details here; I mention it only as background to explain why Henry Bradshaw is one of my bibliographical heroes -- on a par with M.R. James and Neil Ker.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

A Curious Cutting at the Chazen

Last summer Maria Saffiotti Dale, Curator at the Chazen Museum of Art, sent me just the sort of provenance puzzle I enjoy. It concerned a 15th-century Italian cutting, shown above, described on the Chazen website as an "Initial 'D' from an Antiphonary from Como Cathedral with a Temple". [1]

On the back is an inscription which she could not entirely read: "I can make out all the inscriptions EXCEPT the initials(?) immediately preceding the date 1856 and what follows it. Any ideas?"

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

"Beyond Words" Exhibition Catalogue Online

I expect that many readers of this blog will have visited the "Beyond Words" exhibition in Boston and Cambridge towards the end of 2016, and many more will have bought the catalogue.

The catalogue has been made available online at, where the entire text can be read, searched, or downloaded as a PDF:

[as usual, click to enlarge]