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: