Saturday, 19 October 2019

A Bible in Philadelphia, With a Spanish(?) Provenance [II]

In the post two weeks ago, I traced the so-called Patou Bible (Philadelphia, Free Library, MS Lewis E 242) back through an 1877 auction catalogue to the Cistercian abbey at Loos, which owned it by the early 18th century, and discussed a 15th-century owner, Jean Patou. But I deliberately omitted the book's earlier provenance, which I'll begin to address today.

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

Italian Illuminated Cuttings and Leaves in Berlin

Hot on the heels of my last post, news of another new catalogue of cuttings and leaves, this time in the Berlin Kupferstichkabinett, and focusing on Italian illuminated items.

Monday, 14 October 2019

Medieval Manuscripts at Keio University

[The Patou Bible at the Free Library, Philadelphia, about which I blogged a week ago, turns out to be more complex and interesting than I had anticipated, so the next posts will have to wait a bit longer. In the meantime, readers may be interested to learn of a new publication.]

Thanks to Richard Linenthal I recently became aware of an exhibition of manuscripts belonging to Keio University, and thanks to the kindness of Takami Matsuda, I have a copy of the catalogue. A detail of the front cover, showing the English title, is above.

Saturday, 5 October 2019

A Bible in Philadelphia, Attributed to the Grusch Atelier [I]

I have always struggled to understand the fundamental book about 13th-century Parisian illumination: Robert Branner, Manuscript Painting in Paris during the Reign of Saint Louis: A Study of Styles (University of California Press, 1977).

I have had to grapple with it again in earnest during the past couple of years, while cataloguing leaves in the McCarthy Collection, several of which have been attributed (wrongly, in my opinion) to artists and ateliers defined and named by Branner, including "The Dominican Painter", "The Leber Group", "The Atelier of the Vienna Moralized Bibles", and "The Johannes Grusch Atelier".

The latter atelier has been the subject of an extended exchange on Twitter this week, and in the course of trying to understand Branner's definition of the style(s), I went looking for digitized versions of the manuscripts he cites. One of them is a Bible at the Free Library, Philadelphia (MS Lewis E 242), recently digitized as part of the Bibliophilly project.

Sunday, 29 September 2019

The McCarthy Collection, Vol. II, Now Available

I have numerous blogposts in my drafts folder, but none that are ready to publish without some more work, so this weekend I will instead take the opportunity to advertise that a catalogue of illuminated manuscript leaves and cuttings, containing much new provenance information, was published a few weeks ago.

Basic details: 305×250mm; 248 pp.; 63 catalogue entries describing nearly 100 items; all reproduced in colour, often including the reverse side, and often with sister-leaves and/or comparanda in other collections.
ISBN 9781912168132.

It can be ordered from the publisher here, but does not seem to be available yet through Amazon or other sources.

Sunday, 22 September 2019

The Name of the Rose (1986) - An Addendum

Since writing the previous post, I had another look on YouTube, and found a clip of the film in which Baskerville and Adso first visit the Library. All the manuscripts appear in the first 2 minutes of this 4½-minute clip:

This scene includes a few more shots of open manuscripts, mostly the same as the ones seen in the scriptorium scene.

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts in The Name of the Rose (1986)

Sean Connery, as William de Baskerville, inspecting a manuscript
I ended the previous post with a modern copy of a medieval manuscript, that had been made as a prop for the film The Name of the Rose [Wikipedia], based on Umberto Eco's book about a medieval manuscript, library, and murder mystery. I later decided to have a look at the film to see if I could see the facsimile manuscript's appearance. I don't have a copy of the full movie, but there is a scene (full of inaccuracies and anachronisms) available on Youtube (embedded below) set in the monastery's scriptorium, and just for fun I decided to take a series of screenshots, to see how many of the manuscripts included in the scene are identifiable.

[The 4½-minute scene should play if if click this YouTube link, with the usual options to pause, watch full-screen, etc.; but you don't have to watch it in order to understand what follows]

Here is an overview of the scriptorium, as seen when the heroes of the story (the Franciscan William de Baskerville, played by Sean Connery, and his young protégé Adso of Melk, played by Christian Slater) first enter the room:

Saturday, 14 September 2019

A Fake in Detroit

My recent post about 19th- or early 20th-century miniatures and initials added to medieval manuscripts seemed to be popular, so I will do a series of blogs about other illuminations that I believe to be either entirely modern, or "improved" in the post-medieval period.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Kay Sutton (1943–2019)

Kay outside the Musée Cluny, Paris, in 2007
Many readers of this blog will have known, or at least known of, Kay Sutton, who died yesterday. Having been diagnosed with cancer a few years ago, and undergone successful chemotherapy, the disease returned untreatably a few months ago.

Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Brölemann Price-Code: A Partial Decipherment?

A recent post caused me to look again at the question of the price-code use by at least one of the Brölemanns, and found in their manuscripts.

In my much older post about the Brölemann catalogues, I wrote that If enough examples could be collected, it ought also to be possible to decipher the Brölemann price-code. From the images we have, it is apparent that x=0, and other numbers are represented by cd,  l, q, s, t, and u.

Saturday, 31 August 2019

Ernst Detterer's Copy of the De vita activa et contemplativa

In a footnote to the previous post I mentioned that Ernst Detterer owned a 29-leaf portion of a 15th-century Italian copy of Prosper of Acquitaine (now re-attributed to Julianus Pomerius), De vita activa et contemplativa, on paper, of which one leaf is at the Newberry Library:

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 on 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.