Saturday, 24 August 2019

An Unnoticed Arrivabene Leaf at the Newberry Library

Chicago, Newberry Library, Case MS 137, no. 7 (detail)
In May last year I visited the Newberry Library and spent a stimulating morning looking at leaves and cuttings (one of which I subsequently discussed here). One of the finest I saw is a large paper 15th-century Italian Humanistic leaf, with an illuminated bianchi girari initial, shown above. As the heading tells us, this initial "C" introduces Eusebius of Caesaria's De praeparatione evangelica, Book I [Wikipedia].

The heading is written in very elegant epigraphic capitals, in lines of blue, red, olive green, and dark purple inks. These colours, alternating in this order, are characteristic of the famous Paduan scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito (also discussed in this blogpost).

Here is an example of a heading by Sanvito, using the same colours in the same sequence, but with the addition of lines of gold (another of his favoured colour-sequences):
Escorial, MS F.IV.11 (detail)
Sanvito's coloured capitals were so admired by contemporaries that he was often commissioned to add them to books whose main text was written by other scribes, and so although the main text of the Newberry leaf did not look to me like his hand, I wondered if the heading in epigraphic capitals might be by him.

Saturday, 17 August 2019

Leaves from a Book of Hours Repurposed as an Armorial

The leaf above was sold this week in a provincial English auction. The miniature presumably represents St Barbara holding a miniature tower, or Mary Magdalene holding her ointment-jar, but it is in poor condition, so it is hard to judge its artistic merit. It is on a leaf that was originally blank of the other side, and was thus doubtless the verso of single-leaf miniature, prepared in the southern Netherlandish manner for insertion into a Book of Hours.

Very strangely, the blank recto was later used for drawing the arms of various English families, identified in 17th(?)-century captions:

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Another Brölemann "Catalogue B" Description

In 2015 I wrote a post about the catalogues of the important Brölemann collection. One more Brölemann manuscripts has recently been digitized (shown above), which prompts me to repeat part of what I wrote before, with some additions.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

A Sighting of The Myrour of Recluses

Five years ago I had the pleasure of researching, for an auction, a newly-discovered Middle English manuscript, of which no other complete copy was known: the so-called Myrour of Recluses. Most of the text had recently been edited from the only known (incomplete) copy at the British Library, but crucially this new manuscript has a prologue in which the author dates his work: "This Wednysday bi the morow the even of the blissed virgyne seynt Alburgh the secunde yeere of the worthy cristen prince kyng Henry the fift" (i.e. 1414).

Sunday, 4 August 2019

The Mortuary Roll of Lucy of Hedingham

The first of a series of consecutive fixed-term contracts I had at the British Library was a post in 2002 to select medieval manuscripts with specific regional associations, for inclusion in a digitisation project called "Collect Britain" [defunct website], whose purpose was to emphasise that the Library's collections are relevant to the whole of the British Isles, and to make selected items accessible to everyone online, and not just those who, by living in London, could more easily visit the Library in person. It was a wonderful experience, that allowed me to consult a couple of thousand manuscripts that I would otherwise never have had a reason to look at.

One manuscript that particularly fascinated me is the Mortuary Roll of Lucy de Vere, first prioress of the Benedictine nunnery at Castle Hedingham, Essex. The nunnery was founded by the de Vere family, Earls of Oxford, whose family seat was Hedingham Castle [Wikipedia] [1]. The first part of the roll is shown above, with a detail here:
BL, Egerton MS 2849

Sunday, 28 July 2019

A Manuscript in Lyon, Dated 1469

Lyon, BM, MS 624 (541) [Source]
Browsing images downloaded from the Bibliothèque virtualle des manuscrits médiévaux (BVMM) this week, I came across a manuscript with unusual script and very distinctive penwork decoration, now in Lyon, shown above, and here in a close-up detail:

Regular readers will recognise this strange decoration, which combines full and half fleurs-de-lys alternately blue or gold, with dense filigree penwork in red and blue, from a recent post:
Sims collection, Maryland (detail)
I am not only pretty confident that the penwork is by the same person, but also that these two books were written by the same scribe (though he was writing more carefully in the ex-Durrieu Book of Hours than in the Lyon manuscript).

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Otto Ege's "Chain of Psalms" Manuscript: Another Update and a Cautionary Tale

Notre Dame, cod. Lat. b. 11.
(Image courtesy of the Hesburgh Library,
University of Notre Dame)
Things have moved rapidly since last weekend's two blogposts about Otto Ege's manuscript of the Sermons of Philip the Chancellor.

David Gura kindly sent me an image of the first page of the Notre Dame manuscript (shown above), which allows us to see the decorated initial, and the incipit with abbreviations that von Scherling expanded incorrectly:

Sunday, 14 July 2019

Otto Ege's "Chain of Psalms" Manuscript: An Update

I sent a tweet about yesterday's blogpost, and within a few hours I had a response from David Gura, who published a catalogue of the Notre Dame manuscripts in 2016, and recognised the von Scherling-Ege manuscript in my blogpost as Notre Dame cod. Lat. b. 11:

Saturday, 13 July 2019

Otto Ege's "Chain of Psalms" Manuscript

In a previous post I reported that Otto Ege's 12th-century Italian Lectionary (Fifty Original Leaves / Handlist no. 3) appears in Erik von Scherling's Rotulus catalogue vol.IV (Winter, 1937). Looking again at that catalogue, I now realise that a widely-dispersed manuscript, whose text he referred to as a "Chain of Psalms" (FOL / Handlist no. 4; of which a leaf is shown above), is also there.

Saturday, 6 July 2019

A Leaf from an 11th-Century Giant Bible in Washington, DC

The earliest miniature at the National Gallery of Art is from a Bible attributed to central Italy (Rome?) in the late 11th century, shown above.

Sunday, 30 June 2019

Cuttings by the Monza Master [III]

In a previous post I reproduced the image above, which is close in style to the large series of cuttings attributed to the Master of Monza, and I suggested that it came from the same series, cut from a collection of saints' lives.

I also suggested that it might be the "small cutting with a princess saint in an initial V in the Enrico Frascione collection in Florence" from a "broken-up choirbook", mentioned by Gaudenz Freuler in a 2013 catalogue.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

A Dismembered Book of Hours Once Owned by Count Durrieu: A Second Postscript

In a recent post (and a first Postscript) I discussed a now-dismembered Book of Hours that was described in a Sam Fogg catalogue in 1991. I now realise that it was still intact several years later, in 1997, when it was offered by Les Enluminures, Catalogue 6: Heures Me Fault de Nostre Dame / A Book of Hours, Too, Must Be Mine (Paris, 1997), no. 13, from which the images above and below come.

Saturday, 15 June 2019

A Miniature of St Augustine Absent From the Rosenwald Collection Catalogue

There have been a number of catalogues in the past decade or two dedicated entirely or primarily to collections of single leaves and cuttings, and I have increasingly come to think that the best model for how such catalogues should be presented is, in fact, one of the earliest, namely Carl Nordenfalk et al, Medieval & Renaissance Miniatures from the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC, 1975):

Sunday, 9 June 2019

A Cryptic Book Label Identified

A reader sent me this image and asked if I knew whose book label it is, suggesting that the letters in the central monogram might be read as "Daume". I didn't recognise it, but by Googling the unambiguous part, "EX LIB HEN RY", I was quickly able to find the answer.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

Sunday, 26 May 2019

The Date of Wellesley MS 29

In a previous post I considered the weird initials added (in the 19th century, I believe) to Wellesley MS 29, a manuscript that has previously been dated "s. XVex/ XVIin", or "c. 1500", presumably partly on stylistic grounds, and partly due to a calendrical diagram on fol. 13r, which has the year "1500" written above it, using the medieval forms of arabic numerals (shown above).

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Another "Spanish" Forger?: An Addendum

A follow-up from last weekend's post.

The interface for the digitized Wellesley manuscripts allows browsing of thumbnails, a slideshow of larger (but still small) images, and downloading of individual high resolution images, but no easy way (as far as I can tell) of scrolling/browsing high resolution images. For this reason I have not looked through all the images properly.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Another "Spanish" Forger?

Wellesley College MS 27, fol. 15v (detail) [source]
I realise that such value-judgements are unfashionable, but to my eye, the painting of the Madonna and Child above is very ugly.

I also suspect that it is no older than the 19th century.

In April 2015, about year and a half before the Beyond Words exhibition opened, I contacted some of its organisers to suggest that the illuminated manuscript in which this miniature is found should perhaps not be included in the exhibition. I wrote:
"To me, the figures in the miniatures mostly look 19th-century, most obviously the Madonna and Child on f.15v, but I suspect that the whole miniatures, not just the figures, are modern, probably copied from a real Flemish book."
This opinion refers only to the miniatures, and especially the human figures in them; the manuscript in which the Madonna and Child miniatures appear is a genuine Book of Hours, which has been attributed to "Probably Antwerp, Brabant, southern Netherlands, c. 1480–90".

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

A Dismembered Book of Hours Once Owned by Count Durrieu: A Postscript

I have belatedly realised that the Olschki catalogue cited in the previous post is available online, and provides several images of the miniatures of the manuscript, some of them with unusual iconography:

Diptych of Christ Blessing and the Virgin, fols. IIv-IIIr

Saturday, 11 May 2019

A Dismembered Book of Hours Once Owned by Count Durrieu

The image above shows a leaf of a manuscript that has puzzled me for some time. I don't recall having seen script and decoration like this anywhere else.

Saturday, 4 May 2019

The Nationality of the Sées Missal

A month ago I blogged about a Missal at Sées, datable to c.1332 (plus or minus 5 years) which I claimed to be English. Since then I have spoken to two specialists of English illumination, who both agreed that the script is English, but expressed scepticism about whether the decoration is English as well. So before posting a blog about the contents of the Missal, which has been sitting in my "Drafts" folder for some weeks, I feel I ought to address this issue.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

The Pontifical of John of Neumarkt (d. 1380)?

For about 20 years I have wanted to solve a puzzle concerning a bifolium from a grand Pontifical, later used as binding-waste. This week I had a breakthrough.

One side of the bifolium is shown above, and the other below. It is substantially complete, though creased and somewhat damaged (as binding waste almost invariably is), yet impressive due to its large size: about 39cm high by 57cm wide, the ruled space of the text in two columns of 21 lines being about 25cm by 18.5cm.

Sunday, 14 April 2019

A 15th-Century Breviary in Douai, Probably Made At Bury St Edmunds

Earlier this year I visited a few libraries in the far north of France, including Douai. One manuscript that I pre-requested to see is their MS 167, an English 15th-century Sarum Breviary. Such a text would not normally be of much interest to me, but for the fact that, based on the images online, I thought it was probably produced at Bury St Edmunds, in Suffolk, one of few English regional styles of illumination that I can recognise with some confidence.

By asking to examine the manuscript in person I hoped that I might find my gut-feeling confirmed, for example by finding that St Edmund and other East Anglian saints are given special emphasis.

Saturday, 23 March 2019

"Madame X" and the Marcadé Collection

During the past few years I have tried hard to verify the identity the woman whose manuscript illuminations were auctioned anonymously at the Galerie Georges Petit, Paris, on 6 December 1926:
"Catalogue des enluminures de hautes époques, tirés des manuscrits et antiphonaires ... appartenant a Madame X ... dont la vente aux enchères publique aura lieu Galerie Georges Petit ... le lundi 6 décembre 1926"

Saturday, 16 March 2019

Unnoticed Leaves from the Beaupré Antiphonary

"Ego Ioh(ann)es sc(ri)psi hunc librum"
Baltimore, WAM, MS W.761 fol. 1r [Source]
The surviving volumes of the Beaupré Antiphonary perhaps comprise the most famous choirbook of the Middle Ages, made in 1289-90 for the Cistercian nunnery of Beaupré, near Grammont in the diocese of Cambrai. It has been described as "one of the great monuments of gothic art" [1].

The volumes have had a succession of illustrious modern owners, including John Ruskin, Henry Yates Thompson, Alfred Chester Beatty, and William Randolph Hearst; it is now at the Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore (MSS W.759-762), where it has been fully catalogued and digitized.

When John Ruskin owned it, he extracted a number of leaves to give to friends. A few of them contained major decoration, but most were much more ordinary-looking text leaves, and these occasionally appear on the market.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

David Pearson, Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook, 2nd edition, 2019

The first edition of David Pearson's, Provenance Research in Book History: A Handbook (1994) has been a frequent source of help to me since 1994, and I am delighted that a new revised edition has just been published.

Saturday, 9 March 2019


Augustus Wollaston Franks [Source]
British bookplates are often identified by the name "Franks" and a number.

This refers to the catalogue of the collection of bookplates bequeathed to the British Museum by Augustus Wollaston Franks (182697) [Wikipedia]:
E.R.J. Gambier Howe, Franks Bequest: Catalogue of British and American Nook Plates Bequeathed to the Trustees of the British Museum by Sir Augustus Wollaston Franks (3 vols, London, 19034)
This is available online in several digitized copies, of which perhaps the best is the one scanned by the University or Toronto:
The catalogue entries are by necessity very succinct, but quite easy to use once one understands their conventions.

Sunday, 3 March 2019

An Unpublished English Missal, Made for Sées c.1332

A year ago I downloaded a very large number of images of illuminated manuscripts in French provincial libraries, and have been working through them ever since. Recently, after browsing through thousands of images of French manuscripts, I was surprised to suddenly encounter a series of images of one whose script and decoration is distinctively English.

The manuscript is in the diocesan archives of Sées [Wikipedia], in Normandy. (Confusingly, Sées used to be spelled Séez, and this spelling is still used by the diocese, which can lead to confusion with Séez [Wikipedia] in southwestern France). Digging around a bit, I came to the surprising realisation that it is almost entirely unpublished in print, and online sources consider it to be French.

Sunday, 24 February 2019

Provenance Seminar in Lyon, 3 April

For any readers who will be in France in April and who have not already heard about it, I thought it would be worth bringing to their attention a seminar that will take place in Lyon on 3 April, about the Study of Provenance in Heritage Collections of French Libraries.

Here is the programme:

Saturday, 23 February 2019

Another Cutting by the Master of the Brussels Initials

Here's another cutting to add to those listed in a previous blogpost, here. It is Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS McClean 201.13g, and its associaton with the other published cuttings is duly noted in Morgan, Panayotova, and Reynolds, Illuminated Manuscripts in Cambridge, I (2011), no. 188.

Saturday, 2 February 2019

The Bibliothèque de l'Enlumineur

[NYC, Columbia University, RBML,
Med/Ren Frag. 74; Source
I have had an interest for a long time in Alphonse Labitte (see, for example, the blog post here). In 1890, he founded the Société des Miniaturistes et Enlumineurs de France, and I assume it was a sort of club, perhaps a bit like the Burlington Fine Arts Club, with a regular meeting-room and its own library (to which, I guess, members were encouraged to make donations): in his various publications he often reproduces manuscripts in the "Bibliothèque ed l'enlumineur". Or perhaps he referred to his own personal library as if it belonged to the club; I have found at least 22 medieval manuscripts that bear his bookplate. But until now, I have not been able to match up any of the manuscripts he reproduced with manuscripts whose present whereabouts I know.

The exception is a miniature now at Columbia University, shown above.

Saturday, 26 January 2019

The Walsingham Bible Revisited

One of my very first blog posts, in December 2010, concerned the 12th-century Walsingham Bible at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Back then, very few images had been published, and I was not allowed to take photos, but the whole manuscript has now been digitized and made available on the Library website.

Saturday, 19 January 2019

A Leaf from the Cistercian Abbey of Signy

Some provenance research is "active": you can go looking for answers; some is passive: you just have to wait until you find the necessary evidence.

An example of the latter concerns the small leaf shown above, in a private collection, than I have looked at periodically since 2000.

I have always found it attractive and unusual, but never attempted to identify the text, and certainly never thought about trying to trace its provenance because, part from the style of the script and decoration, there are no clues from which to start. The quire signature in the middle of the lower margin shows that it was the last leaf of the second quire of the parent volume.

But browsing images recently that I had downloaded from the BVMM (Bibliothèque virtuelle des manuscrits médiévaux) website, I realised that I had found the parent volume, and it turns out to contain some significant provenance information.

Sunday, 13 January 2019

The Hungerford Hours

The Hungerford Hours is well-known both because it is an important example of 14th-century English (probably East Anglian) illumination, and because leaves have appeared on the market with some frequency since the volume was dismembered c.1969. Thus, every few years, cataloguers have had the opportunity to assess the evidence provided by newly resurfaced leaves, and reconsider the parent volume as a whole.

The medieval provenance of the Hungerford Hours relies on two main pieces of evidence:
  • The first page of the Hours of the Virgin (shown above) has in the lower margin two heraldic arms, presumably of a husband and wife: (i) azure(?), a fess gules, and (ii) argent, a fess sable between three crescents of the same, two and one. The latter heraldry also appears on several other leaves.
  • In the last quarter of the 15th century the book was doubtless owned by a close friend or family member of Robert Lord Hungerford (d. 1459) (hence the manuscript's familiar name) and his wife Margaret Botreaux (d. 1478), whose obits are added to the calendar (18 May and 7 February).
The manuscript was first brought to general scholarly attention by Janet Backhouse, in a brief 1981 article mainly concerning the calendar and the Hungerford provenance [1]. A much more detailed discussion of the then-known leaves, and of the possible original patron, was published by Michael Michael in 1990 [2]. He noted that the arms argent, a fess sable between three crescents of the same (those on the right of the image above) are like those borne by Sir John de Patteshulle (d. 1349), except that his crescents are recorded as gules (red) instead of sable (black).

This has remained the main study of the manuscript until very recently; Christopher de Hamel and Stephen Cooper (hereafter referred to as de Hamel-Cooper) have now re-examined the provenance and provided an updated list of the known leaves, bringing the number up to forty-six, and they have also proposed a new date for the manuscript and a new patron [3].

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Cuttings by the Monza Master [II]

Despite having written in the previous post about the flimsiness of the relationship between the initials by the Monza Master, and the choirbook in Cracow into which some of them as stuck, it is worth looking more closely at the volume as a whole.