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]

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Collages and Cuttings from an Unusual Breviary

The Schoenberg Institute at the Kislak Center at the University of Pennsylvania is the only institution, as far as I'm aware, that regularly introduces its medieval manuscripts by way of YouTube videos; there are now more than 70 (including non-western MSS). I only recently became aware that one of these videos concerns not a codex, but two collages of cuttings, perhaps assembled in the 19th century, one of which is shown above.

This caught my attention because I had also recently been looking at other fragments from the same manuscript.