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.