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