Saturday 11 November 2023

Sydney Cockerell on the Value of Provenance in Catalogue Descriptions

I have just encountered, for the first time, this letter from Sydney Cockerell [Wikipedia] to the Editor of the Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, 30 no. 169 (April 1917), p. 154 [click the images to enlarge them]:

Sunday 29 October 2023

An Unpublished Illuminated Calendar from the Abbey of Montier-la-Celle

This and the following images are used
Courtesy of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

Interesting manuscripts can be found in unexpected places. At the CULTIVATE MSS conference in London a year ago [PDF programme], there was a presentation about the collection of the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust [Wikipedia], which was interesting but had very little to do with medieval manuscripts. One partly-medieval volume was mentioned and very briefly shown on screen, however, and after several months of emailing I was eventually able to get a complete set of images of the relevant part of it. One detail is shown above.

Saturday 21 October 2023

A.C. de la Mare and Neil Ker on Describing Script


Anyone who has ever attempted to describe a manuscript will have faced the issue of terminology for describing script. Over the course of the last 75 years numerous books and articles have been written, and conferences held [1], discussing the issue, and yet we have still not arrived at any real consensus.

I think that two main drivers lay behind these publications and conferences, especially the earlier ones. One was to try to make palaeography more "scientific" (with implications of reliability and accuracy), and the other was to compensate for a lack of reproductions. It seems to me that the former was somewhat misguided [2], and the latter is now outdated [3].

If a series of Books of Hours are described as being mid 15th-century French, Flemish, Spanish, Dutch, German, and Italian, then the knowledgeable reader will have a very good idea of what the script of each of them looks like, and how they differ from one another, without a formal description of their script. The same goes for an 11th-century biblical text, a 12th-century patristic text, a 13th-century academic text, a 14th-century legal text, a 15th-century Humanistic one, and so on. The date and place of origin, plus the type of text, is usually enough to indicate in general terms what the script looks like. No amount of description can ever convey its precise appearance  any attempt to do so is at best futile, and at worst misleading [4].

Saturday 14 October 2023

Minor Initials from the Murano Gradual: Two More 19th-Century Albums


In March last year ago I wrote a blogpost about the minor (i.e. small foliate, not historiated) initials cut from the Murano Gradual. For a long time I had been very sceptical that they were indeed from the Murano Gradual -- because their style was so unlike the style of the minor initials that occur on the back of a few of the cuttings of historiated initials -- but when I eventually took the time to look closely at their script and musical notation, the relationship became plain.

I therefore compiled a list of all the Murano Gradual's minor initials known to me: my hope is that, one day, someone will be able to emulate the exercise of reconstruction done by Margaret Rickert in the 1930s ("Fragmentology" is not a new field of study!), which resulted in three publications:

Margaret Rickert, ‘The Reconstruction of an English Carmelite Missal’, The Burlington Magazine for Connoisseurs, vol. 67 no. 390 (Sept. 1935), pp. 99-113 (available to those with access to JSTOR here)

Margaret Rickert, ‘The Reconstruction of an English Carmelite Missal’, Speculum, XVI no. 1 (1941), pp. 92-102, pls. I-V (available to those with access to JSTOR here)

Margaret Rickert, The Reconstructed Carmelite Missal: An  English Manuscript of the Late XIV Century in the British Museum (Additional 29704-5, 44892) (London: Faber & Faber, 1952)

It is a masterclass of reconstruction. Not only did she work out the original sequence of the major, historiated initials (a comparatively straighforward task), but was also able, astonishingly, through a painstaking examination of the tiny portions of text preserved on their backs, to put hundreds of the small, minor, initials into their relevant places:


Saturday 7 October 2023

"Inclitus" Identified

A miniature in the Wildenstein collection (shown above), the largest surviving work by the Master of the Murano Gradual, has usually been identified as depicting "Mission to the Apostles". In a previous blogpost, I suggested that the subject is instead The Selection of St Matthias (as an apostle, to replace Judas).

Even if my suggestion is correct [1], there is still an oustanding puzzle about the miniature: it appears above a single line of text and music, and the text consists of a single word "INCLITUS":

No one has ever been able to identify the text this comes from.

Saturday 2 September 2023

The Calendar from a Recently-Broken Italian Breviary


I have just noticed that Forum Auctions have a calendar in a forthcoming sale (28 September, 2023, lot 24), with a short description and a two-page opening reproduced in the online catalogue (shown above). 

The description tells us that it is a six-leaf quire, bound in "19th century vellum-backed marbled boards", which suggests it was removed from its parent manuscript at least a century ago.

Sunday 13 August 2023

Wildenstein Cuttings and Leaves Now Online

[click to enlarge] [source]

I have lots of blogposts in my draft folder, but all require some more work before they are ready to make public. One concerns the initials of the Murano Gradual, and in the process of compiling it, I found that the Musée Marmottan Monet, which owns a dozen historiated initials and a full-page miniature, have digitised the collection within the past year or so and put them online. This seems like something worth sharing now.

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Two More Erik von Scherling Catalogues Online: A Postscript

One of the reasons my previous post may be significant is that it demonstrates that von Scherling kept issuing catalogues of medieval manuscripts during the hiatus between vol. III (1933) and vol. IV (1937) of his Rotulus series.

Sunday 23 July 2023

Two More Erik von Scherling Catalogues Online

In 2015 I wrote a blogpost about the Dutch dealer Erik von Scherling, including an attempt to list all his known catalogues, especially the series with the title "Rotulus".
At my request, and through the kindness of Candice C. Brown at Duke University Libraries, two more of his catalogues have now been digitized, and are available online at

Saturday 3 June 2023

A Scattered Missal Written by Laurentius

Vassar College, Leaf 58

For the past few years I have been working on a catalogue of the medieval and Renaissance manuscripts at Vassar College, due to be published early next year. It has been the spur to many of my investigations into the trade in single leaves in the US in the 20th century, including those sold by Dawson's Book Shop, discussed in a few previous posts (e.g. here). Just before I submitted the first draft of my text, I made a satisfying provenance discovery, concerning the Missal leaf shown above.

Saturday 27 May 2023

Otto Ege's Terence: An Addendum

Last weekend I posted about Otto Ege's manuscript of Terence's Comedies. I reproduced at the top of the page an image of a leaf in a private collection in California that I was able to examine a few weeks ago, thanks to the very kind hospitality of the owner. After he read my post, he contacted me to tactfully draw my attention to the fact that I seemed to have made an oversight.

Sunday 21 May 2023

Otto Ege's Terence


Private collection, California

Leaves from some of Otto Ege's manuscripts are very easily recognised. He did not sell many leaves of manuscripts written in Humanistic script, for example, and among these, his copy of Terence's Comedies is distinctive (an example is shown above).

Sunday 23 April 2023

A Czech Antiphonal Leaf Dated 1576

On a visit to the Houghton Library in 2018 I went through a box of miscellaneous single leaves, containing all sorts of interesting items. One is a Czech Antiphonal leaf, of which a detail is shown above.

Saturday 8 April 2023

A 13th-Century Peter Lombard now in Liverpool

This week's post is really just a series of observations, followed by a puzzle to which I hope a reader might be able to offer a solution.

Some months ago I went to Liverpool, and among the manuscripts I wanted to see was a very fine copy of Peter Lombard's Gloss on the Psalms, produced probably in Oxford in the early 13th century. It is well known, having been catalogued by George Warner when owned by Dyson Perrins, and having been included in Nigel Morgan's Survey of Early Gothic English Illumination [1].

It is an extremely handsome volume, with wide margins, as can be seen in the image above; here is a close-up of one of the historiated initial:


Saturday 25 February 2023

The "De Roucy" Hours?: An Addendum

Last weekend I asked Ellie Jackson, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library, for a copy of an article she published last year, and she kindly sent me a PDF: 

Eleanor Jackson, ‘Pursuing the Percys: The Original Owners of the Percy Psalter-Hours’, Journal of Medieval History, 48.4 (2022), 524–45

It concerns a late 13th-century Psalter-Hours that I examined nearly 25 years ago when it was in a private collection; it was acquired by the BL in 2019. By coincidence, one of the things it addresses is so relevant to the blog I wrote a few weeks ago about the heraldic arms in the so-called "de Roucy" Hours, that I thought it would be worth writing this brief addendum to that post. (If you have not already read it, I suggest you do so before continuing here).

Sunday 22 January 2023

The "De Roucy" Hours?

In The Book of Hours of Louis De Roucy (RECEPTIO Academic Press, 2022), Rossi writes:

"What is noticeable in this manuscript, apart from the constant presence of owls in the borders, is the heraldic shield of its first owner. It appears with an unusual insistence, on average every ten pages, at least six times in the retrieved leaves, depicting a blue lion on a field of gold, Or a lion azure armed and langued gules (Fig. 8 et seq.)" (p. 22):

Figs. 8a-8f reproduce these six shields:

But in my blogpost here, I described the background as silver (argent) not gold (or), and note examples of French families that bore these arms:

I also provided a close-up detail of one example from the manuscript:

Saturday 14 January 2023

The RECEPTIO-Rossi Affair, Part VIII: Independent Fact-Checkers

I am very aware that there are many people who are not on Twitter, and are therefore not up-to-date with the recent revelations in this ongoing saga. I have not posted anything new here since 29 December, partly because the minutiae may not interest most people, and partly because it would be too time-consuming to report everything that has happened.

But it seems worth writing a new post now, because of an article published online yesterday by Peter Burger, of the Dutch fact-checking website 'News Checkers' , based at Leiden University ( It is in Dutch, but Google Translate and Deepl both do a very good job of translating it into English (and, I assume, other languages).

I recommend that you read the whole article, but the "headline" revelation is that a 40-page article about Michelangelo's poetry, published in 2017 by Rossi in an online Journal of which she was "Editor in Chief", and re-distributed by her as her own work on her university website, her page, and her Researchgate page, is very largely copied from an article published in 2004 by Matteo Residori, an Italian scholar writing in French, now of the Sorbonne Nouvelle University.

According to the Dutch analysis, 77% of Rossi's 2017 text came from Residori's 2004 publication, and another 6% from a French scholar's work, published in 2007.

In response to this revelation, Rossi published on her page an image, supposedly showing an earlier version of the Michelangelo article, in which due credit is given to Residori (in red) and her own name does not appear:

[Source (archived copy)]

Needless to say, she does not cite her source for this image. Even if it does come from an earlier version of her original online publication, this does not change the fact that Residori's work is not acknowledged in this way in any of the other archived versions of the online publication, which all look like this:


Residori's name also does not appear in the versions of the article uploaded by Rossi to her various personal and institutional websites:

Despite the concrete evidence that she has distributed this article on at least four different websites, without citing the original author in any of them, Rossi writes on her page:
"Qualques [sic] imbéciles, dans sa chasse aux sorcières lancée par Peter Kidd et poursuivie par des crétins sur Twitter, a cru trouver un plagiat dans cet article, auquel manque l'en-tête paru dans le magazine."
She may think that Twitter is populated only by "imbéciles" and "crétins", but it is worth emphasising that I had no part in the most recent revelations, which were entirely the result of investigations by an independent and highly-respected fact-checking organisation.

[EDIT 15 January 2023: Matteo Residori is Italian, not French as I had written in the original version of this blogpost; I have now corrected this]

Thursday 5 January 2023

The RECEPTIO-Rossi Affair, Part I: The Staff [re-posting, with edits]

[6 Jan. 2023: Google deleted the previous version of this page, so I have removed the parts that were presumably the source of a complaint, and tried to tidy it up in other ways. The old version is archived online elsewhere]

lot happened yesterday [Christmas Day], mainly on Twitter, but also on Hacker News, on, and some in private emails (there are more revelations in store if I can get permission to share some private info!).

I know that there are many people who have good reasons not to be on Twitter, especially under its current (mis-)management, so this blog is an attempt to summarise recent revelations.

I am not a very sophisticated user of Twitter (I don't follow many people, and my feed is usually very low-volume), so it is very possible that I have failed to see some relevant tweets among the hundreds posted in the past 24 hours or so. Often several people made the same observations independently, and I am not sure who made them first. So: apologies in advance if I seem not to give your contribution the attention it deserves.

As mentioned above, there is a lot of material to cover, so I think I'll break it into several blogposts; this one covering the staff listed on the RECEPTIO website.

It was a private DM that really got the ball rolling for me. I was sent a private message to the effect that at least three of the supposed members of staff of RECEPTIO are represented by stock photos.

I had tried finding some of these staff members online (with very limited results, for reasons that later became apparent) but had not yet tried a reverse image search to find where their supposed portrait photos came from. 

The first to be revealed as a stock photo was "Noemi De Santis":
My favourite example is the Legal Advisor, attorney "Paolo Enrico Bernasconi":
His image can be found on a number of sites:
of which this is my favourite:
But it turns out that he can also help you out with your drug arrest if you are in Texas or New Mexico!:

The same situation applies to several more of RECEPTIO's supposed staff, including "Emma Fleury" and "Hannah Amì":

Within hours of these observations being made on Twitter, the images of these people started disappearing from the RECEPTIO website:

A comparison between two archived versions of the RECEPTIO website reveals *extensive* changes on the Operational Staff page this year: 11 people have been removed, and of those that remain several have had their names or titles changed! 

Of the people who [at the original time of writing] have not yet been removed from the website, three share a common surname, and Prof. Rossi uses the same surname in legal contexts, as shown by online records. Prof. Rossi's husband later sent me an email confirming that she is his wife, and the other two women whose names and pictures appeared on the RECEPTIO website are their daughters.

The website of the Swiss National Science Foundation lists Carla Rossi's grants, which total of 547,145 Swiss francs (not including any money she was paid for her part in a 3-year project that was granted another 653,176 Swiss francs).

She received a grant of 20,000 Swiss francs (about £18,000 or $21,000) for a one- month project to work on the reconstruction of the manuscript which was the subject of my blogpost:
I cannot comment on the quality of the other projects, but certainly this grant resulted in an extremely poor piece of very "deriviative" work.

Maybe I'll come back and add more to this post later. I want to end by emphasising that there are certainly some innocent people who have been persuaded to get involved with RECEPTIO, at least one of whom I know to be a genuine scholar, and who knew nothing of what is now being uncovered, so please do not assume that everyone involved with RECEPTIO has the same moral compass as its Director.