Well, this is the third time here at Sexy Codicology that we are delighted to communicate that the Vatican Library has, once again, digitized and made available a few hundreds new manuscripts!
Since we started the DMMmaps project, the Vatican Library has more than doubled the number of digitally available books. Plus, they have reorganized the home page: Where once you could see the endless list of manuscripts available (now 1’500+!), there is now a tidier page showing the collections and then number of digitized books you may find inside.
An old problem is still present: it is impossible to know which were the most recently uploaded books; unfortunately there is no RSS, nor is there any specific announcement which tells us what is new.
Too bad. I guess it is up to us users to explore!
New manuscripts from the Vatican Library
We can’t be sure these are completely new online, but nonetheless, they are amazing.
Last year we received a message on our Facebook page; it was a request for help finding the name and information concerning a manuscript. On a late evening we went on a quest to do just that. What we discovered during the adventure was the Petau – Rothschild Hours. An incredible manuscript we had never seen before!
Dated between 1500 and 1510, the “Peteau Hours” or “Petau – Rothschild Hours” consists of 44 sheets of vellum of 230 x 140 mm, containing 33 lines per the page on two columns. It is written in humanistic script in brown ink. The headings are written in green, while capital letters are red or blue; there are also some initials which are painted on a golden background.
The text is accompanied by 16 miniatures, shaped in the form of medallions of 65 mm diameter each, or monochrome decor with red highlights, white, blue, yellow and pink. These illuminations are attributed to John Bourdichon, painter of the illuminations in the “Great Hours of Anne of Brittany“. However, in more recent times François Avril in his work on manuscript painting in France attributed these to Tourangeau Jean Poyet, who worked between 1490 and 1520, also painter of various other illuminated books.
Avant-garde manuscript book design 1-on-1
The illuminations in the “Hours Petau” are exceptional, but what is even more exceptional is the layout of the book: Jean Poyet placed these miniatures in pairs (on the front, recto, and back, verso, of one folio) at the beginning and end of every office in the book. Nothing exceptional until now, but what is extremely rare is the fact that all the folios in the manuscript, except the ones home to these illuminations, have a circular cut in the middle that allows the reader to always look at the same miniature while going through the book of hours. See image below and the video!
Reading around we discovered that Jean Poyet created also another manuscript with a similar layout. It is kept by the Royal Library in Copenhagen, and called the “Thott Hours“. In this case the miniatures and the cuts in the manuscript are diamond-shaped and not round. The Thott Hours have been digitized and are available for free to view online, but due to the fact that the images are scanned flat, it is difficult to notice that the folios have holes in them, and that there is only one miniature every few pages.
Provenance: Sold and gone for a long while (hopefully not for forever)
It is not clear for who the Petau – Rothschild Hours were originally made, but in the seventeenth century the manuscript was in possession of either Alexandre Petau (famous book collector) or his son, Paul. In the eighteenth century Alexandre’s collection was sold and dispersed. In the nineteenth century the book appears to have been in the collection of Baron James de Rothschild, whose arms are now visible on the binding. After this we find that this book of hours went in the possession of the New York Bookseller Kraus who kept the book until 1974, when Paul-Louis Weiller acquired it. The book then went on auction one last time in 2011, when it sold for 1’800’000 euros. To whom? We do not know, but what we do know is that, unfortunately, this means that the manuscript will probably not be digitized for a long, long time.
A rather sad ending for an otherwise wonderful story of a stunning manuscript. When we discovered it we were blown away. This goes to show that although here at Sexy Codicology we love manuscripts, we study them, explore them on a daily basis, there will always be something we have never seen before that will make us fall in love with these books again and again.
(The information in this post is partially based on the translation of this page, from which we learned it went on auction and away.)
It’s Xmas time! Christmas songs and carols everywhere! In this newest instalment of The Adventures of Medieval Killer Bunny we are going to look at what the medieval bunnies are planning for theholidays! Like everyone, also they sometimes need some relaxation and fun, and most importantly, a break from their killer jobs; and since we are sure you have heard “Jingle bells” and “Joy to the World” for the past month or so, it is only appropriate that in this post we will meet the Musical Killer Bunnies.
Rudolphus, the red-nose killer bunny
Browsing manuscripts you might have often seen rabbits blowing on a horn, but you might have also noticed that this is not the only instrument that they can play. As we see in the pictures below, medieval rabbits were also good at playing all kinds of instruments…. Or perhaps they only made it seem so, to distract you before they nibbled your bum.
What is particularly interesting about these marginal drawings is that animals, human figures and grotesques (defined by the British library as: “a hybrid and comic figure, often combining elements from various human and animal forms”) were all mixed together. There was no regard for proportions, which gave you man-sized rabbits, or miniature deers next to human figures. Sometimes these animals, grotesques, or humans were drawn as an extension of the border decoration. It is common to see all sorts of animals doing human things like hunting, jousting, battling and as we are showing you in this post, playing musical instruments. This kind of decoration was accepted in medieval times; marginal scenes depicted daily life turned upside down. Particularly interesting is that often we see the most curious and ridiculous scenes in the margins of religious texts. It always surprises me that this was allowed in such books.
So there you have it: as the marginalia shows us, the ninja killer bunnies don’t only like to spend their time killing stuff; they also enjoy having some fun and making music. In the manuscript pictures above you can see that in those days of merry feasting, the bunnies make temporary peace with their enemies and party together in full Christmas mood!
Not only medieval bunnies!
Whereas some manuscripts have bunnies making music aplenty, we also found quite a nice collection of other animals playing musical instruments; as you have seen in this post, the bagpipes are a very popular instrument together with the harp, organ/organetto and horn. This does not only apply to the hares, but all sorts of animals. Beside the laughs, it could be really interesting to research the connections between the instrument displayed in these manuscripts and their counterparts in real medieval life!
Together with the killer bunnies and their instruments (musical, and killing instruments that is) the Sexy Codicology team wishes you a merry Xmas and a joyful 2015!
PS! Stay tuned: Soon, we will be posting another instalment of the Killer Bunny Adventures!
e-codices offers free online access to medieval and early modern manuscripts from public and church-owned collections as well as from numerous private collections.
It currently allows access to 1189 digitized manuscripts (many more being added soon!) and it has always had a pleasing interface to go with it.
The new e-codices
Recently e-codices has updated this interface with what we believe to be even a better one: a clean page with all the information one would wish from a digitized manuscript (TEI-P5 metadata), along with a large preview image of the book, is presented to the user; all on a responsive design that adapts to tablets, phones and desktop monitors.
There is a new viewer based on OpenSeadragon and SharedCanvas is being used to unite dispersed manuscripts.
A new side bar is also in place, which can be shown or hidden, and it displays the metadata and basic information about each manuscript.
To finish up: Search has been improved even further, and there have been improvements also on the back-end of things.
I can’t but urge you all to go and visit (and enjoy) this beautiful site. It is done with a lot of love and passion, and it really shines through
What do you do with a super-awesome manuscript like the Utrecht Psalter? You make a super-awesome website to go with it. Not only: you make super-awesome YouTube videos to promote it, and catchy animations so that also casual visitors will be intrigued by what is being shown; plus you make sure that you spread the word on the right social media channels to gain visibility.
The Utrecht Psalter, currently owned by the Utrecht University Library, has just been nominated for UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register. In 2015, UNESCO will decide whether the medieval manuscript will be given a place in this documentary heritage register. Dating back to the ninth century, the Utrecht Psalter is one of the most valuable manuscripts held in a Dutch collection. Check the new website (with complete digitized version of the psalter): www.utrechtpsalter.nl
We went to the indicated website to investigate. We already knew the manuscript: dated between 820 and 830 CE, it was either created in Reims or in the abbey of Hautvilliers; probably meant as a gift for Louis the Pious (son of Charlemagne), it is richly illustrated in a very distinct style that stood out when compared to other contemporary manuscript decorations.
Univeristeit Utrecht has gone great lengths to promote the Utrecht Psalter: Much about the manuscripts is explained in the excellent videos the placed on YouTube, explaining how it got to Utrecht and how and why it was made.
The Utrecht Psalter has been nominated for the UNESCO list. The decision will be taken in mid-2015, to decide whether this masterpiece will find its place among others on the documentary heritage register.
The Utrecht Psalter Online: an example for others
Useless to say, Utrecht University is setting an example on how a library (or any institution) should promote its contents. The website that has been created is informative, interesting and a pleasure to go through. I truly wish there would be a website like this for every manuscript in the world.
You can find out more about the Utrecht Psalter on the following channels:
The manuscript that we want to highlight for you today is the Morgan Library’s Crusader Bible. It is also known as the Morgan Picture Bible, the Maciejowski Bible or the Shah ‘Abbas Bible. The book is an Old Testament that was originally made with only miniatures to tell the stories. Later, inscriptions in Latin, Persian and Judeo-Persian were added.
According to the Morgan Library, it is not only one of the most awesome and beautiful manuscripts they own, but also one of the highlights of French Gothic illumination.
This manuscript was, for some time, associated with the French King Louis IX and his Seventh Crusade (1244-1254). Unfortunately, there is no clear and definitive evidence to support the claim that this manuscript was owned or commissioned by this king. The proof is only circumstantial.
The Crusader Bible, a bit of history
The Crusader Bible was possibly made in Paris, but for certain in Northern France. Even in the 13th century this would’ve been an extremely valuable book and very expensive to have made. So, in any case, the patron of this work was from high society in France (in the manuscript the Biblical kings are wearing crusade armor with the French royal fleur-de-lis on it). The work was created as a 46 folio-manuscript with only miniatures. This would have been no problem for most readers in those times; they knew the Bible so well that they would recognize the scenes right away. However, the Crusader Bible does not cover the entire Bible, only parts of the books of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth and Samuel.
When it was made, there were actually 48 leaves in this book. Most of them (43) are now in the Morgan Library, two you can find in the Bibliothèque National de France, one in the J. Paul Getty Museum and two are unfortunately missing.
According to the Morgan Library, the scenes that were painted in the manuscript depict famous and less famous Biblical events. But, most of all, the battles are portrayed in a very gruesome, yet super detailed way. So detailed, that the machines of war can be replicated from the miniatures only! All of this, of course, painted in a landscape and costume of 13th-century France.
About 40 % of the Crusader Bible was painted by one master, the rest by at least 4 other people. It remains a great mystery who they were and no other works by their hands are known at this point in time.
Just this month a new exhibition titled The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece was opened in the Morgan Library. For those of you that are, like us, too far away to pop by for a visit, you can see their online exhibition. It’s an interesting read, especially how the manuscript travelled all over the world in the last centuries! Or you can go browse the digitized manuscript and enjoy all its beauty!
As you surely know, “Quill” was recently launched. Quill is a website a new website for medieval manuscript lovers put together by Dr. Erik Kwakkel, who had the idea, took care of the texts and made sure it’d be a success, and I, who had the pleasure of taking care of the photos. Erik put together a fantastic blog post about it, to which I contributed too. I ended up writing a bit too much for it, so it had to be reduced a bit in length in the end.
Here follows the original text I wrote, in case you are curious of what an awesome internship it was!
Quill, how it all started
When I was asked to take pictures of medieval manuscripts for this project I was thrilled; when I was told I would have essentially unlimited access to the manuscripts from the exquisite collection in the Leiden University Library, I was as excited as the proverbial child in the candy store. What an opportunity! But then the question dawned on me: How do you take photos of manuscripts? How do I make photos that will interest someone who might have never seen a manuscript before?
Thanks to Erik’s lessons at the time of my Master, I knew exactly what had to be photographed and an idea of where to find them (“internal pricking? It’ll be in a manuscript from England… VLF 1 is from England…” tadaaah!). I spent most of the time browsing through manuscript catalogs and manuscripts’ descriptions, searching for the right book to use for the shots. Once the desired detail was found, the actual photographing begun. But, first things first: respect the manuscript! It might happen that I would find a detail that could make a perfect picture, but to get the photo right I might have to mishandle the manuscript in some way. Of course, that was a no-no; if that happened, I would return the manuscript and go back to the catalog and start searching for another candidate. Once an ideal manuscript was found, I used the oldest trick in the box for directing viewer’s attention towards the detail described: Depth of field. This would ensure that only the detail in question would result focused in the picture, and the surroundings blurred (see the decorating the book page http://bookandbyte.org/quill/pages/decorating-the-book.php). I had a very good lens (f/2.8) that allowed me to do just that. The lighting was a bit of a problem, since I was in the Special Collections room, I had no direct control. Most of the time I had to wonder around the table and find the right angle at which there wouldn’t be shadows or strange reflections. Overall, it has been a wonderful experience and I really feel blessed when I look back at the pictures I took and remember the excitement of opening every manuscript, wondering what beauties would be hidden inside.00
Some 500 photos and around a thousand manuscripts after…
There are two photos I am particularly fond of: One is the initial P (Plinius) from VLF 1 f. 1r, and the second is the image of the watermark from BPL 304.
The initial from Pliny I simply find pleasing to the eye: I enjoy the contrast between the white modern paper addition on the left, and the parchment on the right: It is the opening page of the manuscript, and the “P” is welcoming us to the book, taking all our focus that, at a later stage, will shift to other elements in the same page. I like to believe that this photo captures the moment when you open a manuscript you have never seen before, and you are captivated by unexpected decoration.
Taking a picture of a watermark was technically challenging instead: The manuscript’s folios are made of paper, and although paper made in 1600’s is more resilient than the contemporary counterpart, it is still delicate and had to be handled with extra care. I had no control over light sources, but I knew that I would have needed a strong light to come through the back of a page, in order to let the watermark shine through. The plan then became to wait for the Sun to go down in the late afternoon, and let some of the light shine through the Special Collections’ windows onto the manuscript. All I had to do then was kneel before the book and take the picture of the naturally bending folio.
Asuper-cool website about medieval manuscripts has gone online today!
“This is to alert you to a new product of the “Turning Over a New Leaf” project: a website (in English) devoted to the medieval manuscript, aimed at a non-expert audience: http://quill.leiden.edu/. Some sixty web pages take you through the different production stages of the manuscript, and highlight important facets of the book before print. Short explanatory texts are paired with beautiful photographs, produced by Giulio Menna, professional photographer and co-producer of the website.
Quill went live today and was two years in the making. It was produced with funding of De Jonge Akademie, logistical support of Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society (LUCAS), and with generous help of Leiden University Library, Special Collections.”
And guess who are the authors? I am sure you know both of them:
The mastermind behind the project is Dr. Erik Kwakkel, author of the message above, someone you will certainly know for his successful Twitter and Tumblr accounts, blog, YouTube videos, books, lectures and whatnot dedicated to medieval manuscripts.
The guy who had the incredible luck of having to go through hundreds of manuscripts over at Leiden University Library in order to take photos was, as mentioned a few lines above, well… me!
The Quill and the camera
Shooting photos for Quill was part of my internship back then. As you can imagine, it was a wonderful experience, and I am extremely proud of the final result. I feel also blessed to have had the opportunity to spend days and days in the Special Collections, ordering out all sorts of manuscripts, searching for the details I needed to take a photo of, and then ordering out some more, just to look at them and enjoy their beauty. A once in a lifetime chance. I am very grateful to Erik for having given me this opportunity.
This morning a woke up to an email from my father. It was an article from the digital edition of his favorite Italian newspaper. The title of the article is: ‘Il sovrano che Unì Est ed Ovest’, or: The Sovereign that United East and West. Unfortunately the newspaper’s app shares the article, but excludes the author’s name from it, but it’s dated 20/07/14.
The article carefully explains how the three books contained in Oxford Bodley 264 (and a facsimile created byIstituto dell’Enciclopedia Italiana) are connected.
A Few Words About Bodley 264
Oxford Bodley 264 is a beautiful composite illuminated manuscript containing three different works: The Romance of Alexander which wascompleted in 1338 and illuminated within in 1344, the other two works were added at a later time: Alexander and Dindimus and Li Livres du Graunt Caam were bound together around the turn of the same century.
The Romance of Alexander, the first work contained in Bodley 264, is a collection of legends concerning Alexander the Great. Originating in 200 CE, the original versions were changed, adapted and build upon hundreds of times and were translated in many languages and at the beginning of the 12th century new French versions appeared on the scene, similar as the one in Bodley 264.
Part two of this manuscript is a poem concerning the correspondence between Alexander and Dindimu, King of the Brahmans in the East. It is written in Middle English.
Part three is Li Livres du Graunt Caam (The Book of the Grand Khan), part of The Travels of Marco Polo.
What’s the Point of this Composite Manuscript?
The question that the author of the newspaper article answers is: “Why where these three books bounded together?”. The answer is as simple as it is deep in meaning: in the last two lines of the article we can read:
Alessandro rappresenta la conquista e la violenza, questi grandi viaggiatori rappresentarono e inverarono la mescolanza di civiltà.
Alexander represents the conquest and the violence, while the great travelers represent and embody the mix of civilizations. These books were bound together in Bodley 264 to have both worlds, in every sense: The East and the West, conquest and exploration.
And this is exactly what makes codicology “sexy” to me: pondering how the texts, the scripts, the illuminations, the bindings, the historical happenings of the time, the readers, and the owners come together in a manuscript and answer the question: “why does this manuscript exist in this form in the first place?”
June has been a productive month for the DMMmaps project: we were at the DH Benelux Conference in The Hague, Netherlands, presenting this project, but we have also received many new links to that were added to the database. So, without further ado, let’s present the additions:
The first of three libraries under the same website. 39 digitized medieval material dating from 1247 until 1500. Mostly documents and charters. Title of the texts are in Estonian or German.
Estonian Historical Archives
366 digitized objects in this library. Same site as above, but different institution. An as above, also here you can find a plethora of documents, charters, testaments, memorandum, etc. The titles are in German (mostly), Latvian, and Russian.
Tallinn City Archives
Part three of the same website as above. Once again: mostly charters and other documents. This time: 812 of them! Dating from the 9th CE on.
Bibliotheek Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
Fine addition from the Netherlands: the Bibliotheek Rijksuniversiteit Groningen and its 34 digitized manuscripts (quite some post-medieval, though).
Great addition from Austria: 229 manuscripts dating from the 9th century on. Really worth exploring. Just look at the cover of this Evangeliary (not sure when it was made. I sense a later addition!)
Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians
Manoscriptorium is home to thousands of manuscripts from so many different institutions. The problem is: it is difficult to sort them out and link to an individual library. This time we received a link to the manuscripts of the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians:
Four manuscripts of the Royal Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov have been digitized. The earliest of them is a collection of the works of St John Cassian, written in the monastery of Hradisko near Olomouc in the 1130s–40s (DA III 25). The collection DA IV 42 comes from the library of the monastery in Weissenau. The Bible DA IV 22 was made in the Czech lands. Salzburg seems to be the place of origin of the catalogue of the local bishops and archbishops (DA II 28) created after 1615, which is complemented by their coats of arms.
LMU University Library
16 manuscripts from Germany, from the Ludwig Maximilians University Munich. 2 are medieval, the rest are from the 1600’s until the 1800’s.
Biblioteca civica Cristoforo Sabbadino
The next three libraries are all from Italy, digitized under the same project. The Biblioteca civica Cristoforo Sabbadino is home to two digitized manuscripts. Not the highest quality in digitizing, but the project does something in the sad Italian digitizing panorama.
Biblioteca del Museo Correr
Biblioteca del Museo Correr, in Venice, is home to four digitized manuscripts.
Eight manuscripts from the Biblioteca Capitolare
Library of Congress, Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection
Nine digitized manuscripts:
The Lessing J. Rosenwald Collection stands out among the distinguished resources of the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. Taking the illustrated book as its central theme and containing books from the last six centuries and manuscripts from the three preceding.
Antiphonals, antiphonals everywhere! The link leads to a page where you can find hundreds of other musical manuscripts from various other institutions!
Castello del Buonconsiglio
Back to Italy, with seven manuscripts for the medieval music fans.
One manuscript: from northern Italy (about 1410-1415) with 16 sheets. The website is so Web 1.0 that it almost made me feel nostalgic. But it works, and the manuscript is beautiful!
Biblioteka Uniwersytecka w Toruniu
Last, but not at all least! The University Library of Toruń, like most of the Polish repositories, uses the DjVu plugin to display manuscripts; a plugin that in at least 75% of the case will fail to load on your PC. If you have the patience to make it work, you will be rewarded with 19 medieval manuscripts!
More Videos on Medieval Manuscripts from the Getty!
The Getty Museum YouTube Channel has recently added a couple of videos concerning their medieval manuscripts. The latest one concerns chivalry in the Middle Ages. The title is self-explanatory: in a little over two minutes the video explains how the way chivalry worked back in those days, while in the background you can see some of the beautiful manuscripts in their collection. Overall, the video is very well made and interesting but, in my opinion at least, they could have expanded on the argument a bit. Nonetheless, very worth a look! Here it is:
On the other hand, video number two (uploaded around two weeks ago): “Making Manuscripts”, is a 6:19 minutes long video that explains clearly how manuscripts were made. There is a lot of information: starting from the creation of parchment all the way to the making of the binding, passing by the writing and the making of miniatures. A very refined and technically well made video.
Sexy Codicology is on YouTube too!
As you might know, Sexy Codicology is also on YouTube. We have our own little channel where we try to collect all the videos we find on YouTube concerning medieval manuscripts. We also upload our own, every once in a while. We use material made available from institutions that allow users to freely use the images they have uploaded. That is why you will find that most of our videos feature images from the Getty, thanks to their Open Content Program:
The Getty makes available, without charge, all available digital images to which the Getty holds the rights or that are in the public domain to be used for any purpose. No permission is required.
This licence, plus the exquisite quality of the images uploaded, allows us (and you!) to create short videos where we highlight some of the beautiful illuminations from the collection.
Since the last couple of years, more and more universities are participating in collaborations where they create so-called MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses). These are a way for anyone that is interested to participate in open-access, free from costs university courses. The courses are basically on any kind of subject you can think of: from art and history to literature, computer science and medicine. You can find lists of courses on pages like Coursera and Futurelearn. I just finished a six-week course on Futurelearn by the University of Southampton about the archaeology of the old Roman port of Rome, Portus. My experiences with this were so good, I decided to also enroll for England in the time of King Richard III which is offered by the University of Leicester also on Futurelearn.
One of the biggest news items in the field of archaeology last year was the discovery and identification of the (in)famous King Richard III under a parking lot in Leicester. Now, the University from this same city has created a six-week course starting coming Monday 30th of June about all sorts of aspects of the time of this King of England.
You might wonder, however, how this connects to codicology and medieval manuscripts. Richard III was a medieval king during a time of change in the field of book history. Handwritten books were less produced and printing was on the rise. This English king might not have had one of the most famous libraries, but nevertheless a very important one. He was one of the few people in high society of those days that signed his books.
This makes it easier to identify copies from his library (which have nowadays spread throughout collections in the world). Some of these books still have original bindings yet many are simple text editions without much illumination. Scholars have concluded that Richard’s library is a very nice cross-section of popular literature of the time (except professional books like medicine). This, I think, is very interesting because it gives us a better understanding of what was read in (mostly upper layer) society at the time. Also, in this library a number of manuscripts survive that are the only existing copies of various texts.
Coming back to the MOOC course, it seems to promise the participants a variety of subjects that will be discussed. Here, it seems that a nice share of the course will be about culture, reading (and very possibly also literacy) and the introduction of printing. For anyone interested in a wider book historical course about England in this period, I believe it looks very promising. For a more strictly codicological and paleographical course this seems not the right one. I do not know yet, of course, how deep the matter will be discussed or many manuscripts we will see come by. But in any case, I thought it was very worth sharing here for anyone wanting to participate. You can join in on the course anytime these next weeks. For more info and subscribing go here.
e-Codices, the Virtual Manuscript Library of Switzerland, has added 31 new digitized medieval manuscripts to their website. Obviously, we had to go and investigate. The new digitized manuscripts range from the 9th to the 18th century. Difficult to choose which ones to highlight since they are all wonderful to our eyes. Let’s start from the one they have highlighted themselves.
The New Digital Manuscripts from e-Codices
Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. lat. 6
Parchment · I-II + 239 + III-IV ff. · 28.3 x 20.8 cm · Rhineland · second quarter of the 9th century
The four Latin Gospels
This remarkable manuscript, created in the 9th century in the Rhineland, contains the text of the four Gospels in their Latin version, written in Carolingian minuscule. The manuscript is decorated with, among others, two initials embellished with interlace and with canonical tables presented in arcades in vivid colors.
Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Ms. fr. 165
Parchment · 260 ff. · 26.5 x 19 cm · Paris · about 1412-1415
Pierre le Fruitier, called Salmon, Traictés de Pierre Salemon a Charles VI roy de France [Dialogues, second version]
Pierre le Fruitier, called Salmon, secretary to Charles VI and someone who influenced John the Fearless, Duke of Burgundy, in 1409 wrote a composite text that is simultaneously a mirror for princes, a collection of letters, and an autobiography. Salmon presents the qualities a sovereign needs in order to rule well. After his withdrawal from court in 1411 and after the change in royal politics towards John the Fearless, around 1412-1415 he presented a second version of the text; today this version is held in Geneva. With an image depicting Charles VI on a blue bed decorated with lilies, in discussion with his secretary, this manuscript is one of the showpieces of the Bibliothèque de Genève.
Genève, Bibliothèque de Genève, Comites Latentes 54
Parchment · I+226+I ff. · 14.6 x 10.6 cm · Florence · 1470-1480
Book of hours
This precious book of hours was made in Florence around 1470-1480. Its rich and elegant illumination is due to the close circle of the most famous florentine miniaturist of his time, Francesco d’Antonio del Chierico. The same hand is responsible for the major illuminations at the beginning of the various sections as well the initials in the text. The flourished initials are of great elegance. A partly erased coat of arms on the opening leaf indicates that the book of hours was made for the wedding of a male member of the Serristori family. The manuscript entered in the collection of the present owner in 1970 and it was deposited at the Bibliothèque de Genève as part of Comites Latentes.
St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 344
Parchment · 182 pp. · 27.5 x 19.5 cm · St. Gall · 12th century
Missal containing sequences without neumes by Notker Balbulus (pp. 1-14), a calendar (pp. 15-20), a sacramentary (p. 21-82) – beginning on p. 21 with a beautiful initial ‘M’ (a vine scroll contoured in red on a blue and green background), from p. 22 the Canon of the Mass with a Te igitur-initial with the Crucifixion – and at the end an incomplete ritual (pp. 81-182).
St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 543
Parchment · I-IV + 292 ff. · 53 x 39.5 cm · St. Gall · 1562-1564
Manfred Barbarini Lupus, Chants in four parts for the Liturgy of the Hours for the principal feast days of the liturgical year
Large-format antiphonary with chants in four parts, written and illuminated between 1562 and 1564. By order of Prince-Abbot Diethelm Blarer (1530-1564), the Italian Manfred Barbarini Lupus from Correggio composed the pieces for four voices – antiphons, responsories, hymns and psalms for the principal feast days of the liturgical year as well as passions according to Matthew, Mark and Luke. Father Heinrich Keller (1518-1567) wrote the text and the illuminator Kaspar Härtli from Lindau on Lake Constance created a full-page All Saints picture with Christ on the cross (f. IVr), as well as a donor portrait with the coats of arms of the then-living members of the St. Gall monastic community (f. 1r).
With a title like that, we couldn’t but investigate!
Who would have guessed that cheese has such a wonderful story? Barbara Wells Sarudy from her blog explains to us the history of cheese, using beautiful miniatures from medieval manuscripts as support. The blog begins with stating that the oldest pictorial evidence of the existence of cheese dates back 4500 years, all the way back to the Sumerians of Mesopotamia. The post then proceeds to explain how cheese was made in the middle ages, explaining also what types of it you could find in that period (the Grana dates back to 1200!). Moreover, it also explain how it was used as value usable for payments in the same period. For example: did you know that Emperor Charles the Great issued created an annual tax on the church that totaled in 2 consignments of his favorite cheese? Which Barbara doesn’t tell, curiosity will kill us. But the most interesting aspect concerns the norms that existed at the time, concerning how large the cheese should be. It had to be standardized, due to the fact that it was one of the means of payment of the mandatory taxes for feudal lords. A beautiful little post full of curiosities, definitely worth a look! Should you be even more interested in the history of cheese, there is also a whole Wikipedia page just about that!
One of my most beautiful experiences as an MA student in the Netherlands was field trip I did with my colleagues to the deep south of the Netherlands. In an abbey we went through three different libraries searching for fragments in early modern books. What I ended up finding was a full-page pastedown of a manuscript written in Italy in the 13th century. What a beauty it was, still today I think about it…
A Manuscript Lampshade
Anyway, what we didn’t find was a lampshade made from a 16th century antiphonal. This pleasure goes to Micah Erwin and his team, who are conducting a survey of medieval manuscript fragments used in bindings in the Harry Ransom Center. He states on the project’s Facebook Page that the antiphonal used was probably circa 1600, coming from Southern Europe, from an antiphonal.Not sure of the date of the lampshade, but I am guessing not 17th century.
As Micah rightfully states, this is a a fantastic example of one of the many ways in which medieval manuscript fragments have been re-used. Couldn’t agree more! Recently, Dr. Kwakkel from Leiden University also posted about surprising reuses of medieval manuscripts. In his case, rather than putting them on a lamp, you can see how you could wear them.
You can follow Micah Erwin’s project on the Facebook Page, but also on the project’s Flickr Page, where his team and him regularly upload photos of the medieval fragments they find (soon to be added to the DMMmaps!)