Monthly Archives: November 2013

Manuscript Road Trip: An Italian Calf among Nebraska Cattle

There simply aren’t very many medieval manuscripts in Nebraska. But we’re going to stay on I-80 until we find them all.

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The 1938 de Ricci Census lists only four manuscripts in a single public collection in Nebraska, the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Those manuscripts still belong to the university: two books of hours, a theological miscellany from the thirteenth century, and a mid-fifteenth-century copy of Sallust. But de Ricci missed a fairly significant group of manuscripts, the collection of Byron Reed that was bequeathed to the City of Omaha in 1891 and is now on deposit at the Durham Museum in Omaha as the Byron Reed Collection.Blog map

It’s worth remembering that this road trip I’m on is mostly virtual; many of the collections I’m writing about I have only visited via the internet. Part of the point of this exercise is to explore how digital humanities is making its way into the world of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in North America: who is cataloguing and imaging what, with what metadata and into which interfaces. A few of the manuscripts at the University of Nebraska have MARC records (here and here), but there are no online images. As for the Byron Reed collection in Omaha, I have indeed actually been there and know these manuscripts well. I traveled to Omaha about fifteen years ago to catalogue the collection for the Museum, and although I didn’t have a digital camera at the time, I do have detailed notes and will do my best to describe some of the manuscripts without the benefit of images.

It is probably no coincidence that Byron Reed’s story is similar to that of Davenport, Iowa’s C. A. Ficke, about whom I wrote last week: wealthy nineteenth-century businessman leaves his collection to the city in perpetuity. Byron Reed was born in Darien, NY in 1829. He moved to Omaha in 1855, the year the city was founded, and established himself as an important owner and developer of real estate in the city and throughout the state (the Byron Reed Company still thrives as a real estate brokerage in Omaha). As a collector, Reed’s primary interest was numismatics, and his coin and currency collection – focusing on the history of U.S currency – is still regarded as one of the most esteemed in the United States. The collection includes the exceedingly rare 1804 U.S. silver dollar. I know absolutely nothing about numismatics, but if you’re interested, here‘s an interesting piece about the 1804 coin.

The Durham Western Heritage Museum (photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism)

The Durham Museum (photo courtesy of Nebraska Tourism)

The Durham Museum (Courtesy of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau)

The Durham Museum (Courtesy of the Omaha Convention & Visitors Bureau)

Reed bequeathed the entire collection of coins, currency and documents to the City of Omaha via the public library in 1891, and it is currently on deposit and display at the Durham Museum (formerly known as the Durham Western Heritage Museum). The Museum is housed in a former art deco train station (a work of art in and of itself), and is a terrific introduction to pioneer life in the American Midwest. The City sold some items from the Reed collection at Christie’s on 8 October 1996 to raise funds for the Museum. Among the items de-accessioned were several medieval manuscripts that didn’t fit the Museum’s collection mandate (Galvagno Flamma’s world chronicle, a Psalter/Breviary, and the Rule of St. Clare, among others). The Flamma chronicle was offered again at Sotheby’s on 1 December 1998 (lot 86), but its current location – along with the other de-accessioned items – is unknown. The Durham Museum retained most of the coins and currency as well as documents with the signatures of the French kings Charles VI, Charles VIII, Louis XII, and Francis I, among others. One medieval manuscript was kept with the collection, a large mid-fifteenth-century choirbook from Italy, possibly Milan.

The manuscript is a choirbook that preserves the sung portions of Mass, that is, a gradual. It was part of a larger set of books such as were commonly made for cathedral use in the fifteenth century. This book includes the liturgy from the day after Easter through the 24th Sunday after Pentecost; there would have been at least one other “temporale” volume, preserving the liturgy from Advent through Easter, in addition to several volumes that preserved the liturgy for the feasts of the Saints in calendrical order beginning with St. Andrew on 30 November (today’s date, coinciding roughly with the beginning of Advent). The choir would have needed a similar set for use during the divine office, that is, a set of antiphonals, and probably a multi-volume ferial Psalter, among other books. George A. Leavitt, who sold this manuscript in 1886, offered in that sale an antiphonal of similar dimensions with the same provenance that might have come from the same set of choirbooks. Its current location is unknown.

Choirbook, Byron Reed Collection, Durham Museum (Omaha, NB) (photo courtesy of the Durham Museum)

Choirbook, Byron Reed Collection, Durham Museum (Omaha, NB) (photo courtesy of the Durham Museum)

The binding of the Reed manuscript is quite notable, and is presumably why the codex appealed to Reed in the first place (the following is from my description of the manuscript): “Original binding of brown calf over boards, with copper edge-guards and corner-plates, the edge-guards framing the incised inner panel of brown calf, and bordered with embossed cord- and florette-stamps and tooling. Large copper decorative nail-heads along the board edges, central copper boss and outer corner guards stamped with Agnus Dei image, florettes, ‘IHS’ and two different Saints, signed respectively ‘MP’ and ‘SB’. Early sewing repairs to head and tail of spine. Two bronze latch-points on lower cover are preserved, lacks four clasps.” In other words, this manuscript is still in its original calf binding over thick wooden boards with decorative stamps and metal embellishments. Among my notes, I found details of the binding which I have scanned and mosaicked together rather crudely below:

Gradual binding (Detail), Durham Museum, Byron Reed Collection

Gradual binding (detail), Durham Museum, Byron Reed Collection

The manuscript has a fascinating provenance. Written in Italy in the mid-fifteenth century, it was owned early on by the powerful Trivulzio family of Milan, who by the eighteenth century had assembled an important library of books, manuscripts, and coins. Sold at auction by George A. Leavitt & Co. (Trivulzio sale, 1886, lot 32), with their label inside front cover. Bought by Byron Reed, with his description pasted to inner front cover identifying the manuscript as “A choir book of Gregorian chants at one time in a Cathedral at Milan. During the `Thirty Years War’ 1618 – 1648 it was stolen and brought to America. Mr. Reed purchased it of a dealer in New York a few years ago. Illuminated manuscript of the 15th century.” There is no evidence in the manuscript itself to support the assertion that it was ever housed in the Milan Cathedral or stolen in the seventeenth century, although the fact that the manuscript was owned by the Trivulzio family certainly places it in Milan. Leavitt & Co. may have had access to information about the manuscript that is now lost. If the manuscript had in fact been housed in Milan, the fact that it preserves the Roman liturgy, and not the expected Ambrosian rite, may indicate that it was part of a failed attempt to introduce the Roman rite to Milan in the mid-fifteenth century. It was probably the embossed binding that appealed to Reed, with its near-numismatic qualities. Upon Reed’s death in 1891, the manuscript was bequeathed to the Omaha Public Library along with the rest of his collection. The manuscript was exhibited at the Library until around 1970, when it was placed in storage. It is now on deposit and permanent exhibit at the Durham Museum. If you find yourself in Omaha, the Museum is worth a visit. If you find yourself in the Museum, stop by the Reed Collection and take a look at this spectacular binding, an Italian calf that has wandered far afield.

I have made it my stated goal to “visit” every state and territory to ferret out pre-1600 European manuscripts, even when they are few and far between. And so next week we will brave the Badlands of South Dakota.


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Manuscript Road Trip: An Old Friend in Iowa

The Flight into Egypt, Walter Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

As we turn south and head into Iowa, we leave the lake country behind and find ourselves in the plains of the Midwest, among the farms, big sky, and wide open spaces of the Heartland. It isn’t necessarily where most medievalists would expect to find medieval manuscripts, but if I’ve learned anything from my experiences searching for leaves and codices, it’s that they show up in unexpected places.

The 1938 de Ricci Census of Manuscripts in the United States and Canada lists ten manuscripts in only one public collection in Iowa (see Census I:717-724): the Davenport Public Library (the manuscript listed as belonging to the State University of Iowa is said by de Ricci to have been “recently mislaid”).  Blog map

The manuscripts in the Census listed as belonging to the Davenport Public Library had been bequeathed in 1931 by the estate of Charles August Ficke (1850-1931), the former Mayor of Davenport, successful financier, art collector and bibliophile who also donated a large collection of paintings to establish Davenport’s Figge Art Museum. The Figge gives the following brief biography on its website (longer bio here):

Charles August Ficke

Charles August Ficke

“Charles Ficke was born in Germany in 1850. His family settled in Scott County, Iowa, and at the age of 13, he moved alone to Davenport to enroll in the public schools. He worked as a store clerk and bank cashier before leaving to attend law school in Albany, NY. While attending law school, he visited the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. He later credited this visit with sharpening his vague interest in art into something approaching devotion.

The Ficke Mansion, Davenport, built in 1881 and currently a sorority house (1208 North Main St.).

The Ficke Mansion, 1208 North Main St., Davenport, built in 1881 and currently owned by Delta Sigma Chi, the fraternal organization of chiropractors. The third floor once served as Charles Ficke’s private art gallery.

After serving two terms as mayor of Davenport, Charles spent the next several years traveling the world. On those trips, Charles acquired many artistic and cultural items, establishing the foundation of what would become an extensive art collection. In 1924, Ficke told the Davenport City Council he would donate his art collections to the city…Charles Ficke died on December 10, 1931, at the age of 81, leaving behind a legacy of generosity and civic support that is not easily equaled in the history of Davenport.”

St. John the Evangelist on the Isle of Patmos. His attribute, the eagle, holds his inkwell as he writes the Apocalypse. (Univ. of Iowa, Special Collections, xMMs.Bo6, formerly Fiske, Census  MS *, N. France, ca. 1475)

St. John the Evangelist on the Isle of Patmos. His attribute, the eagle, holds his inkwell as he writes the Apocalypse. (Univ. of Iowa, Special Collections, xMMs.Bo6, N. France, ca. 1475)

The manuscripts, which still belong to the Davenport Public Library, have been on permanent loan to the University of Iowa (in Iowa City) since 1956 and have been digitized, along with the rest of the University’s pre-1600 manuscripts, here.

Since the publication of the Census in 1938 and the Supplement in 1963, several Iowa collections have been added to the list of collections housing pre-1600 European manuscripts, in particular Loras College and Grinnell College.

At Grinnell, you will find a sixteenth-century French document and one illuminated leaf housed as part of the Bill Ingram Collection of Early Modern French Manuscript Business Documents (here). The Grinnell College Art Collection holds several dozen leaves, some of which are Persian in origin. A search of their collection using the term Medium = Manuscript yields these results. Most of the leaves have been digitized, and some are quite spectacular. I would draw your attention to this astonishing leaf from an early fifteenth-century Book of Hours said to be from Soissons:

Leaf from a Book of Hours (Soissons, ca. 1400) (Grinnell College Art Collection, Acq. 1987.57)

Leaf from a Book of Hours (Soissons, ca. 1400) (Grinnell College Art Collection, Acq. 1987.57)

Such elaborate gold lettering filling an entire page is rare in a Book of Hours, making this leaf truly noteworthy.

In addition, the leaf below caught my eye because I recognized the manuscript as an old friend:

Calendar page from a Book of Hours attributed to the Coetivy Master (Grinnell College Art Collection, Acq. 1987.59)

July calendar page from a Book of Hours (Grinnell College Art Collection, Acq. 1987.59, verso)

It is part of a well-known dismembered Book of Hours attributed to the circle of the “Coëtivy Master”: leaves come on the market regularly (here‘s one), but I am most familiar with the leaf that belongs to the Boston Public Library (MS pb. Med. 232):

Boston Public Library, MS Pb. Med. 232 recto

Boston Public Library, MS pb. Med. 232 recto

Aside from the calendar pages, which show the Labors of the Months on the recto and the Zodiac on the verso (Leo on the Grinnell leaf above), the medallions in the outer margins tell the story of the life of St. Alexius, suggesting that the original owner bore that name. In the BPL leaf shown at right, for example, St. Alexius’ bride waits alone in bed for her groom, who has abandoned her on their wedding night for a life of prayer and poverty.

Another leaf from this manuscript belongs to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts (here). In fact, once you learn to recognize its lush borders, distinctive 3/4-frames, and marginal medallions, you will start to see it everywhere! (here and here and here…you get the idea).

Our final stop in Iowa is Loras College in Dubuque. In addition to the documents and leaves listed in the Census as belonging to the Rev. L. Kuenzel (Census I:721-722), Loras owns a late-fifteenth-century French Book of Hours that appears to have been made for the use of Chartres (this conclusion is based on my own overview of the calendar and the Hours of the Virgin). The manuscript was digitized as part of a class project, and the resulting website is a great example of how medieval manuscripts can be used in the classroom to inspire students in many ways.

Next week, we turn westward to explore Nebraska.


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Manuscript Road Trip: Monks and Minnesota

The Flight into Egypt, Walter Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The Flight into Egypt, Walters Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

Minnesota  is one of the most beautiful regions of the United States, its extensive woods dotted with thousands of glacial lakes. There aren’t quite as many manuscripts as there are lakes, of course, but there are more than enough to warrant a visit. We’ll start in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota.

Blog mapThe department of Special Collections at UMN holds nineteen codices and sixty-three leaves, many of which have been digitized:

Ege’s Fifty Leaves portfolio: (some of these should look familiar to you by now!)

Singles leaves: (some of these happen to be Ege leaves…can you spot them?)

At last count, the James Ford Bell Library, also at the University of Minnesota, was home to 27 codices, 186 documents, and nine maps/atlases. The Bell Library collects works having to do with “international trade in the pre-modern era”; hence, many of the pre-1600 manuscripts are cartographic or documentary. Pre-1600 manuscripts can also be found in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Bakken Museum of electricity. Pose_lake_Minnesota

That’s all just a prologue to introduce you to some of the main players in the story I really want to tell you today, a story about Vincent of Beauvais, Cistercian monks, manuscripts lost and manuscripts found. A caveat: if this were a formal publication, it would include detailed bibliography, lengthy footnotes, full shelfmarks, and catalogue references. Since it is a casual blog, I’ll relegate all that to a note at the end for those who are interested.

Bakken Vincent

(photo courtesy of The Bakken)

Our story begins in thirteenth-century Belgium. Around the year 1280, a monk named Johannes de Resbais began work on a massive project, collaborating with his Cistercian brethren in the monastic scriptorium at the abbey of Cambron. They were creating what would eventually become a set of seven volumes comprising more than 1,500 leaves, an early and important copy of the Speculum Maius of Vincent of Beauvais.

Vincent of Beauvais – the great encyclopedist of the Middle Ages – lived in France in the first half of the thirteenth century. His major work, the Speculum Maius (or Great Mirror) is nothing less than a compendium of all knowledge, in three parts: the Speculum Naturale, the Speculum Doctrinale, and the Speculum Historiale. The monks of Cambron copied the Speculum Historiale in four volumes and the Speculum Naturale in three (for my purposes, SH I-IV and SN I-III).

Bakken BookXXI-detail

(photo courtesy of The Bakken)

The result was a beautiful set of large books filled with exquisite penwork initials in a distinctive Cistercian style. Johannes signed two of the volumes (“Johannes de Resbais wrote this; pray for him, beloved brothers, men of God”), and most include the fourteenth-century ex libris “Liber sanctae mariae de camberonae” (“This book belongs to St. Mary of Cambron”). All seven volumes were still in the abbey as late as 1782, when they were recorded in a library catalogue. It is at that moment in history – during the Napoleonic Wars and the attendant closure of monasteries and confiscation of their goods – that the manuscripts began to scatter:

Cambron ex libris

The fate of the seven Cambron manuscripts of the Speculum Maius

The fate of the Cambron volumes of the Speculum Maius

SH III was lost, probably destroyed.

SN III was acquired by the British Library in 1845, where it is now MS Add. 15583.

SH II/IV and SN I/II were acquired in 1836 by the great collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 – 1872) in whose collection they were collectively known as MS 8753. Phillipps already owned SH I, having purchased it from the Abbey about a decade before; it was his MS 335. Did he know that the four volumes he bought in 1836 were sisters to the volume he already owned? Your guess is as good as mine.

After Phillipps’ death in 1872, the five volumes in his collection were further divided. SH I was acquired by the Royal Library of Belgium in 1888 (it’s MS BR II.941). The four remaining Phillipps manuscripts were sold together at an 1897 auction as a single lot to dealer Bernard Quaritch.

Quaritch seems to have had a hard time selling the volumes. He offered them for sale in 1898 for £60 (here’s the catalogue) and again in 1904 for the same price (here’s that catalogue), selling them at last in 1907 to noted bibliophile Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962). Cockerell sold SN I and II to his friend C. S. St. John Hornby for £40 in 1907; he kept the other two until 1956, when he sold them to New York bookdealer H. P Kraus for £500 (a whopping profit). Kraus sold them in 1957 to the John Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, where they can still be found under the shelfmark 1280 oVi.

To recap, we have watched as two volumes (SH II and SH IV) made their way from Belgium to England to New York to Minnesota. But we’re not done yet.

Hornby kept the remaining two manuscripts (SN I and II) until 1946, when he sold them for £100 to British collector John R. Abbey (1894-1969). In 1975, the volumes were sold at auction by Sotheby’s London to a dealer named Jeremy Norman, who bought them for £4000 (another whopping profit, this time for the Abbey estate) on behalf of…The Bakken! After a journey of hundreds of years and thousands of miles, four of the seven Cambron volumes have been reunited in Minneapolis, in libraries just a few miles apart.

But enough about Cistercians, let’s talk about Benedictines. The rich history of Benedictine monasticism in Minnesota has resulted in a few medieval manuscripts winding up at institutions such as St. Olaf College in Northfield and the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. But some of the most important manuscript work this side of the Atlantic has been done by the monks at St. John’s University in Collegeville, at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library.

The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library was founded with the mission of preserving monastic manuscripts through imaging. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, monks from HMML fanned out across Europe photographing manuscripts in situ, producing thousands of reels of microfilm stored in multiple copies in multiple locations. If the manuscripts themselves were to ever be lost, they would at least be preserved on film. As photography has evolved, so has the monks’ technology. HMML’s mission now focuses on digitization of manuscripts beyond Europe as the monks seek to document threatened collections in areas such as Ethiopia, India and Syria. They have preserved more than 100,000 handwritten books and documents on film and in megabytes, and anyone who cares about literary heritage owes them a great debt of gratitude.

The monks of HMML at work with their technical team

The monks of HMML at work with their technical team (photos by permission of HMML)

Before we turn south and head for Iowa, here are some additional details and bibliography about the Cambron volumes, for those of you interested in such things (my thanks to William P. Stoneman of Harvard’s Houghton Library for sharing his research on the Cockerell volumes):

SH 1:  Bibiliothèque Royale de Bruxelles, BR II 941

SH II, IV: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Univ. of Minnesota, James Ford Bell Library, 1280 oVi

SN I, II: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bakken Library

SN III: British Library, MS Add. 15583

Robert Plancke, Les catalogues de manuscrits de l’ancienne Abbaye de Cambron (Mons et Frameries, 1938), 60 (no. 202).

John R. Abbey sale, Sotheby’s London, 25 March 1975, lot 2948.

Alison Stones, “The Minnesota Vincent of Beauvais Manuscript and Cistercian Thirteenth-Century Book Decoration”, The James Ford Bell Lectures, 1977, No.14, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Gregory G. Guzman, “The Cambron Manuscript of the Speculum historiale”, Manuscripta XIII (1969), 95-104, and  “Another Volume of the Cambron Manuscript of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum historiale”, Scriptorium XXXVII (1983), 112-119.

Judith A. Overmier and John Edward Senior, Books and Manuscripts of The Bakken (Metuchen, 1992), 28.

Alison Stones, “A Note on Some Re-discovered Vincent of Beauvais Volumes”, Vincent of Beauvais Newsletter XXVI (2001), 10-13.

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Manuscript Road Trip: Mappa Mundi Wisconsinianae

The Flight into Egypt, Walter Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The Flight into Egypt, Walter Art Museum, MS W.188, f.112r

The state of Wisconsin holds several surprises for medieval manuscript aficionados, the first of which is Marquette University, a Jesuit college in Milwaukee. The Rare Book Library is home to a set of twelve handwritten antiphonals produced in 1562 for the Spanish abbey of the Order of San Jerónimo in Alcala la Real in the Archdiocese of Granada.

Greene Antiphonal, detail (Marquette University)

Greene Antiphonal, detail (Marquette University)

The choirbooks were apparently saved from a rioting mob near a monastery in Burgos Las Huelgas in 1931, after which they were acquired by Milwaukee native Colonel Howard M. Greene who gave them to Marquette in 1942. The antiphonals are typically Spanish in style, displaying fine penwork initials with border elements reminiscent of Islamic tiling, the result of the mingling of Christian and Muslim influences on the Iberian peninsula.

Click to see where we've been...

Click to see where we’ve been…

The Haggerty Museum at Marquette owns several leaves and manuscripts, including a lovely Book of Hours illustrated with a rare image of St. Martha taming the ferocious dragon-like Tarasque. According to the legend as related by Jacobus de Voragine in his collection of Saints’ lives, the Legenda Aurea, St. Martha, her brother Lazarus and her sister Mary Magdalene took to the Mediterranean after the Crucifixion, living out their lives in France. William Caxton’s 1464 translation picks up the story along the banks of the Rhone: “There was that time upon the river of Rhone, in a certain wood between Arles and Avignon, a great dragon, half beast and half fish, greater than an ox, longer than an horse, having teeth sharp as a sword, and horned on either side, head like a lion, tail like a serpent, and defended him with two wings on either side, and could not be beaten with cast of stones ne with other armour, and was as strong as twelve lions or bears; which dragon lay hiding and lurking in the river, and perished them that passed by and drowned ships. 

St. Martha and the Tarasque (Book of Hours, France, 1460-80) (Haggerty Museum of Art, Acc. 854.19)

St. Martha and the Tarasque (Book of Hours, France, 1460-80) (Haggerty Museum of Art, Acc. 854.19)

To whom Martha, at the prayer of the people, came into the wood, and found him eating a man. And she cast on him holy water, and showed to him the cross, which anon was overcome, and standing still as a sheep, she bound him with her own girdle, and then he was slain with spears and glaives of the people. The dragon was called of them that dwelled in the country Tarasconus, whereof, in remembrance of him that place is called Tarasconus…” (The Golden Legend (William Caxton, 1464), IV:64) In the Haggerty miniature (at right), St. Martha gazes sternly at the Tarasque, her girdle looped around its neck. The legs and feet of its victim can still be seen dangling from its maw. In the background is the turreted and eponymous city of Tarascon, fifteen miles south of Avignon in southeast France.

Here there be dragons…

The Leardo Map, 1452

The Leardo Map, 1452

No trip to Milwaukee would be complete without a stop at The American Geographical Society Library at the University of Wisconsin (I’m not kidding). This important collection of historic maps and atlases is home to one of the nation’s great treasures, a mappa mundi from the year 1452 known as The Leardo Map, named for the Venetian mapmaker Giovanni Leardo. Hand-drawn world maps are exceedingly rare, and the level of detail on the Leardo Map is particularly noteworthy. The map – measuring only 60 x 73 cm –  depicts the world within ten calendrical and astronomical  circles and an all-encompassing ocean, with numerous cities, mountains, inland seas and waterways identified by their Italian names. As is typical of maps of this period, it is oriented with east at the top (where we find the Terrestrial Paradise of Adam and Eve), Jerusalem at the center. The map has been digitized here in high-resolution; if you tip your head to the left, so that north is at the top, you will be able to orient yourself by easily identifying the Mediterranean, the Italian peninsula, and the Black Sea, among other features. Here’s an excerpt from a 1906 description published in the Bulletin of the American Geographical Society (vol. 38, pp. 365-368): The legend begins with a reference to the Creator and the Passion, and then gives the diameter of the earth, ‘according to the excellent astrologer and geometrician Macrobius,’ as 6,857 miles, which happens to be not far from the actual measurement of 6,876 nautical miles… Leardo then gives the diameter of the Moon, of Mercury, Venus, Mars, the Sun, and Saturn, as well as that of the universe and the crystal sphere; all wholly fanciful. The innermost of the ten circles shows Easter Day for 95 years, beginning with 1452. The second circle marks the months of the year, with the signs of the zodiac. The third circle gives the phases of the moon, according to the cycle of 19 years, distinguished by 19 letters of the alphabet. The fourth circle is that of the days of the months. The fifth circle is that of the hours. The sixth circle is that of the points of the hours; each hour being divided into 1080 points, or instants. The seventh circle gives the dominical letter. The eighth circle gives the length of the days throughout the year, and in the ninth the variation from day to day is marked. The tenth circle contains the name of the titular saint for each day of the year.

Noah's Ark on Mt. Ararat, Jerusalem, and Mt. Sinai (Leardo Map, detail)

Noah’s Ark on Mt. Ararat, Jerusalem, and Mt. Sinai (Leardo Map, detail)

Alexander encounters the Blemmyae (from the 'Talbot Shrewsbury book', Rouen, 1444) (British Library, MS Royal 15 E VI , f. 21v)

Alexander encounters the blemmyae (from the ‘Talbot Shrewsbury book’, Rouen, 1444) (British Library, MS Royal 15 E VI , f. 21v)

Leardo, like others of his time, finds place in his map for the legends current in the Middle Ages. Almost under his Terrestrial Paradise are three inscriptions: Here they eat human flesh; and to the left: Desert where there are many griffins; and on the right: The Thirty Days’ Desert (possibly the Desert of Gobi)….south of Ethiopia we find the empire of Prester John [a legendary Christian king] and these two inscriptions: Here are four-footed animals with human faces [i.e. centaurs]; and Here are men with faces in their breasts.” [i.e. blemmyae, pictured above in a miniature from a manuscript in the British Library]

“Here there be dragons,” indeed!

After you’ve finished exploring the Leardo Map, take I-94 westbound and meet me in Minnesota.



Filed under Medieval Manuscripts