Saturday, 30 April 2022

Buyers and Prices at the Rogers Sale in 1856


I have written several times about the need to locate multiple annotated copies of auction catalogues, because the annotations in any one copy cannot be trusted as reliable. And I have written (e.g. here) about the need to distinguish between the date on which a manuscript was sold and the date on which the auction commenced, because these are often not the same. In looking at the famous 1856 sale at Christie's of the collection of the poet Samuel Rogers (mentioned e.g. here), both these principles are exemplified, as will be discussed today and in next weekend's post.

Saturday, 23 April 2022


It goes without saying that in order to trace the provenance of a manuscript (whether it be a codex, leaf, or cutting) from an auction to its subsequent owners, you need to identify who bought it at the auction. First, you usually need to find an annotated copy of the catalogue; then you need to be able to read the name of the buyer. If you are lucky, it will be a well-known and very distictive name, such as the dealers Quaritch, Dobell, or Colnaghi; or a collector like Cockerell, Riches, or Korner, each of whom is fairly easy to pursue further. Sometimes the name is only semi-legible or it is very common (Smith, Jones, etc.). Sometimes it is legible and reasonably uncommon, but unfamiliar; in this post I'll consider one such example.

Sunday, 17 April 2022

The Lehman Archive at The Met Museum

[This, and all but the first of the next 9 images below, are from the
Robert Lehman papers, Robert Lehman Collection,
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, boxes 73-76]

On my trip to the US before Christmas I spent a couple of days at the Watson Library of The Met Museum. My primarly purpose was to work through the files of the archive of Robert Lehman (1891-1969) [Wikipedia] relating to his collection of illuminations.

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Unnoticed Leaves of Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon

Latin Fragment D.1 (detail)
This and the following images reproduced by courtesy of the
Cadbury Research Library: Special Collections, University of Birmingham

I went to Birmingham last week to see the Crivelli exhibition. While in the city, I also went to The Barber Institute (to look at paintings, not manuscripts such as the Liberale da Verona cutting mentioned at the end of this post), and the University Library (because they have a very good set of Folio Society Collectors' Corner catalogues, some of which I have not been able to consult anywhere else), and the Cadbury Research Centre (Special Collections), which holds a large collection of little-known fragments. (And I do mean fragments, not cuttings and leaves). 

As usual, in my experience, about 90% of the fragments were unintersting to me (Canon Law, Sermons, Use of Sarum liturgica, etc.), but 9% are interesting and 1% are very interesting. One of the two or three items that comprise the 1% is an unrecorded portion of a copy of Ranulf Higden's Polychronicon  Wikipedia], of which a detail is shown above.[1]

Saturday, 2 April 2022

Cuttings by The Master of the Brussels Initials in the 1910 Stroganoff Catalogue?

In a previous post I showed that a cutting of an initial 'U' with St John the Evangelist by the Master of the Brussels Initials has the remains of the Stroganoff ink stamp on the reverse. Its dimensions were reported as 135×135mm when sold by Christie's in 2017. I suspect that it was lot 627 in the 1910 Stroganoff auction, and that the cataloguer mistakenly identified the evangelist as Luke instead of John:

"U. Ritaglio di corale decorato dalla figura dell'evange-lista Luca.
Contorno ed aureola dorata. Arte Umbra, secolo xv.
m. 0.13 × 0.13"
This hypothesis would be considerably strengthened if the preceding item, lot 626b, were the initial 'S' depicting St Stephen by the Master of the Brussels Initials, now belonging to The Met Museum, but the 1910 description is too vague to make a confident identification:
"S. decorata dalla figura di S. Stefano. Policromata e dorata"

One more cutting by the Master of the Brussels Initials, certainly from the Stroganoff collection (because it has his ink-stamp on the reverse), might have been lot 621:
"O. Ritaglio di corale, con l'effige del Salvatore in atto
di benedire. Aureola dorata. Arte Umbra del secolo xv.
m. 0.95 × 0.10"
At  c.135×100mm this cutting is significantly taller than it is wide -- but far less tall than the 950×100mm reported in the Stroganoff catalogue. An initial more than 9 times taller than it is wide and nearly a metre tall, however, is almost impossible to imagine, which suggests that the dimensions printed in the Stroganoff catalogue are the result of a typographical error. It is also notable that the initial above is an 'E', while the catalogue describes an 'O'; yet such a confusion is easy to understand.

So, it may be that all three, two, one, or none of the above initials are described in the Stroganoff catalogue, and the above comments are therefore rather speculative: there are problems with all three identifications. I try to avoid indulging in unsupported speculation, and have little patience for other scholars' work when it is insufficiently founded on firm facts, but in the present case I think that there is a balance of probability in my favour, because two of the three cuttings above were definitely in the Stroganoff collection, and all three of their subjects as reported in the 1910 catalogue, namely:
  • an initial 'U' with an Evangelist with gilded halo and surround, c.130×130mm
  • an initial 'S' with St Stephen, in colours and gold
  • a cutting of an initial from a choirbook, with Christ Blessing