Monthly Archives: December 2013

Manuscript Road Trip: St. Jerome rescues a Utahan Mountain Lion

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

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

As we leave Colorado, we’ll take I-70 due west over the Rockies. Once we come through the mountains into Utah, we’ll turn north on I-15 and head for Salt Lake City where we will visit the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. At UMFA, a search in the collection database for “parchment” yields eight records, five of which include images (one of the five is printed, not handwritten, although it is illuminated by hand). One of these may look familiar to you by now, since we have encountered it in several other collections over the course of our cross-country journey: a leaf from a manuscript I have come to call the St. Alexius Hours:

UMFA Alexius2

Leaf from the “St. Alexius Hours” (UMFA 1996.15.3)

If you remember, we spotted another leaf from this manuscript back in Iowa, at which time I provided links to several other leaves from this manuscript and posted an image of the leaf belonging to the Boston Public Library. Every known leaf has this full floriate border of rinceaux with acanthus, birds and flowers, with a medallion on every page illustrating a scene from the life of St. Katherine or St. Alexius. It would be well worth the effort to digitally reconstruct this manuscript in order to watch the narrative sequence of the miniatures unfold.

working map

Also on the UMFA site is a very thorough lesson plan for teaching students about medieval manuscripts, each lesson focusing on a different UMFA leaf. This is a great model of how leaves can be used in K-12 education.

Before we leaves Salt Lake City, we’ll stop at the University of Utah to see their twelve leaves, including a leaf from a collection of Decretals and a selection of eleven Ege leaves. These haven’t been digitized, so it isn’t possible to identify them with certainty, but once they’re imaged it should be fairly straightforward to associate these leaves with known Ege manuscripts.

Now we’ll continue north out of Salt Lake City (stopping to admire the eponymous body of water on the way out of town), making our way to Utah State University in Logan.

The Great Salt Lake

The Great Salt Lake

Utah State University is home to several codices and leaves, among them a truly spectacular Book of Hours that has been completely digitized here. The manuscript is known as The De Villers Hours because the last few leaves include genealogical annotations made by members of that family in the early seventeenth century. The De Villers (also spelled De Villiers) were wealthy members of the French bourgeoisie who lived in the Dijon region of Burgundy. The manuscript – a Book of Hours dating from the late fifteenth century – may have been made for a member of the family. Although the liturgy reflects the generic Use of Rome, the calendar gives particular emphasis to Burgundian saints such as Philibert (20 August) and Benignus (24 November), both of whose names are written in gold leaf.

The annotations at the end of the manuscript focus on Pierre De Villers and his wife Jehanne Chisseret, married in 1603 at the Church of Mary Magdalene (city unspecified, but presumably the Cathedral of the Magdalene at nearby Vézelay). The births and baptisms of their children follow, including this rather poignant entry on p. 180 (in the citations below, I will refer to the manuscript using the pagination given in the digital facsimile):

“Le troisiesme jour du mois d’Aoust mil six cent et quinz ladit demoiselle Chisseret se delivra au sixiesme mois de sa grossesse d’une fille qui eust baptesme auquel on donna le nom de Perrette et ne vesquit que quatre ou cinq heures…” (“On the third day of the month of August in the year one thousand six hundred and fifteen, the aforementioned lady Chisseret in the sixth month of her pregnancy was delivered of a daughter who was baptized and to whom the name Perrette was given, and she only lived for four or five hours.”)


Office of the Dead, De Villers Hours, p. 126 (Utah State University, Merrill-Cazier Special Collections & Archives, Vault Book 360) (photo courtesy of USU)

The De Villers Hours is a beauty, heavily illustrated with six full-page and nineteen quarter-page miniatures, some of which preserve a complex, sophisticated and unusual iconographic programme. The Office of the Dead is particularly noteworthy, opening with a rich and detailed depiction of The Three Living and the Three Dead (shown at left).

Above the text, which is written on a trompe-l’eoil sheet with curled edges, the Three Dead emerge from their graves to confront the Three Living, one of whom tumbles from his horse in terror. Below the text, Job reclines on the dung heap, taunted by his so-called friends. Both images are often found illustrating the Office of the Dead, the former for obvious reasons, the latter as a metaphorical representation of abject humility. This is not the only illustration in this section of the manuscript, however. There is a small miniature at the beginning of each nocturn (i.e. each of three sections) of Matins.

The first nocturn of the Office of the Dead begins on p. 132 and is illustrated by a very rare depiction of St. Jerome. Usually, St. Jerome (the translator of the Bible into Latin) is depicted as a Cardinal dressed in luxurious vestments, seated in his study accompanied by his attribute of a lion. There is a reason Jerome is accompanied by a lion in medieval art; the story goes that once when he was meditating in the desert, he removed a thorn from the paw of a lion and was granted a vision of the Crucifixion. This is the scene depicted in the De Villers Hours:

St. Jerome in the Desert (Utah State University, De Villers Hours, p. 132)

St. Jerome in the Desert, De Villers Hours, p. 132(photo courtesy of USU)

Jerome, barefoot and dressed in rags, kneels in the wilderness gazing at the vision of Christ Crucified above a linen-draped altar. A lion crouches before the altar, a long thorn protruding from its bloody paw. The scene is tightly composed and beautifully rendered, with a deep background culminating in the silhouette of a towering hilltop city (somewhat reminiscent of the Burgundian town of Vézelay as seen from afar, with its romanesque church of Mary Magdalene at the summit). One does have to wonder, however, if the artist had ever seen an actual lion.

The other two nocturns are illustrated by additional scenes of Job on the dungheap: at the second nocturn (p. 140), he gazes up as his wife empties a slop-bucket on his head; at the third (p. 150), she simply berates him. All three scenes are quite rare, and I have never before seen a Book of Hours with illustrations at the beginning of each nocturn of the Office of the Dead. In fact, in the 1996 Masters Thesis by Kevin R. Williams that accompanies the manuscript, the author argues that this may be one of the earliest such depictions of Jerome in a French context (Williams, p. 42).

Unfortunately, nothing is known of the manuscript’s whereabouts between the seventeenth century and 1953, when it was given to Utah State University by L. Boyd and Anne McQuarrie Hatch, art collectors of some stature in mid-century Manhattan and Utah. The manuscript was part of a large and important gift of rare books and antique furniture. Mrs. Hatch was particularly interested in reconstructing the rooms in which the art and furniture she collected were originally displayed; one of these rooms is part of USU’s rare book library (see also this 1952 article). The manuscript does not appear to have ever been on the market – at least, I can find no trace of it in the Schoenberg Database. The Hatches are assumed to have purchased the manuscript from a private dealer during one of their European sojourns. For those of you keeping track at home, the manuscript is a Book of Hours (Use of Rome), N. France, ca. 1480-90, with 95 + ii leaves, nineteen small miniatures, six full-page miniatures, 21 lines-per-page, approx. 21 x 16 cm.

[And now, a codicological side note for those who care about such things; if you aren’t interested, you can st0p reading and head on over to Nevada]

If you look carefully at the digital facsimile, you will notice that there is something odd about the first sixteen leaves of the manuscript (here called pp. i-x and 1-22). The leaves present the following texts:

pp. i-x: calendar pages for February – June

pp. 1-8: the end of Vespers and all of Compline of the Hours of the Virgin (leaves that should follow p. 93)

pp. 9-22: calendar pages for January and July – December

There isn’t a collation statement for the manuscript anywhere, but since I really can’t stand to leave a codicological puzzle unsolved, I’ve been thinking about it this week, and I think I’ve figured out what’s going on. Without studying the manuscript in person, however, this is all conjecture:

In many Books of Hours, the calendar is comprised of two quires of three nested bifolia, i.e. twelve leaves. Presumably this was originally the case with the De Villers Hours. If true, then January and June would have been conjoint:


If the Jan./June bifolium had been inverted such that January swung around to follow June, and the four leaves (presumably two bifolia) from Vespers/Compline were then interpolated between June and January, the current configuration would result:


I have absolutely no idea why the leaves were misbound. The manuscript is currently bound in late-fifteenth- or early-sixteenth-century blindstamped calf over wooden boards. The covers show evidence of modern rebacking or at least hinge repairs, suggesting that the misplacement of bifolia may have occurred during the course of the repair (presumably the same repair during which the modern paper flyleaves were added). At any rate, if we digitally put the leaves back where they belong (preceding the Hours of the Holy Cross), we find at least some evidence of the original configuration in the following reconstructed opening, in which the current p. 8 faces the current p. 94:


The red arrows point out what appear to be small round (and very old) grease-stains in the margin of both pages. When the book was closed, the stains would have met up perfectly.

I’d love to know if my conjectured collation is right…if anyone at Utah State wants to take a look at the manuscript and let me know, I would be most grateful! In the meantime, let’s keep going west. See you in 2014!

2016 UPDATE: Students of Utah State professor Alexa Sand have just created a website devoted to the De Villers Hours and another manuscript in the collection. Check out their excellent work here:–a-tour-of-t


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Manuscript Road Trip: Christmas in Colorado

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

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

With the Feast of the Nativity nearly upon us, I’ve decided to spend this week not only looking for manuscripts in the beautiful state of Colorado, but looking in particular for images or text having to do with Christmas.

Blog map Let’s start at the University of Colorado in Boulder. UC Boulder has a very nice  collection of more than 85 leaves, all of which have been digitized here.  There is indeed one leaf that happens to preserve Christmas liturgy, but before we get to it I want to share these two standouts:

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder MS 355, saec. IX

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder MS 355, saec. IX

The leaf shown at the left is remarkably early, dating from the ninth century. It is from a Bible and preserves part of the Book of Job. The fragment was recycled in the late Middle Ages to be used as part of a binding; you can see clearly how the leaf was trimmed to create tabs that were to fold around and adhere to the cover. The two small holes at the right were from the nails that attached two metal clasps, and the damage to the leaf resulted from the parchment being pulled off of the cover.

Martyrdom of St. Eustace from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS 315 verso)

Martyrdom of St. Eustace from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours (Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS 315 verso)

The second leaf I want to share with you is from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours. This is a somewhat rare image of the martyrdom of St. Eustace, who was boiled in a hollowed-out bronze idol in the shape of a calf. It’s certainly not an image you would regularly encounter in a Book of Hours. The text is a Suffrage to St. Eustace and would have been included in the manuscript at the request of the original owner.

Next we’ll drive through Denver, stopping at Regis University where we will find several leaves (MARC records here). The Archivist, Elizabeth Cook, was kind enough to send the two images below:

Leaf from a Book of Hours, s. XV (Photo courtesy of Regis University Archives and Special Collections)

Leaf from a Book of Hours, s. XV (Photo courtesy of Regis University Archives and Special Collections)

Leaf from a Psalter, s. XIII ex (Photo courtesy of Regis University, Archives and Special Collection)

Leaf from a Book of Hours, s. XIII ex (Photo courtesy of Regis University, Archives and Special Collections)

I’m fairly certain that the leaf at the far left is from the manuscript that Otto Ege dismembered to use as No. 31 in his “Fifty Original Leaves” set; here‘s a leaf from No. 31 at Kent State University, for comparison (note in particular the style of the border rinceaux and the use of gold leaf in the line-fillers). The right-hand image is from a fairly early Hours, preserving part of the canticle Te deum laudamus that was sometimes sung at the end of Matins of the Hours of the Virgin (the bunny at the end of line four is particularly charming).

Heading south, we make our way to Colorado College in Colorado Springs, where we will find a dozen pre-1600 leaves (listed here) and a newly-acquired fourteenth-century breviary. The breviary is bound in a beautiful and rare seventeenth-century embroidered binding of silver thread on white silk:

Colorado College, Special Collections, Breviary

Colorado College, Tutt Library, Special Collections MS 0378

Some of the Colorado College leaves are part of a collection assembled by Donald Jackson and have been digitized here. Among them are a few Ege leaves, including the twelfth-century Italian lectionary (Jackson #1) and one of Ege’s thirteenth-century Paris Bibles (Jackson #2). Also noteworthy is this tenth-century bifolium preserving part of the Life of St. Fabian (my thanks to curator Jessy Randall for the images):

The Life of St. Fabian, Italy, s. X (Colorado College, Tutt Library, Special Collections)

The Life of St. Fabian, Italy, s. X (Colorado College, Tutt Library, Special Collections)

Finally, I promised you Christmas, and here it is. In UC Boulder’s collection is an Ege set whose leaves include the lovely twelfth-century Italian lectionary we’ve come to know and love (I just pointed out another leaf from this manuscript in the previous paragraph). It just so happens that the leaf in Boulder preserves the Gospel readings for Christmas.

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS Ege 3, verso

Univ. of Colorado at Boulder, MS Ege 3, recto

On the recto (shown at the right), we read Luke 1:26-33, a lection that includes the  Annunciation – “Ave gratia plena dominus tecum” – and the description of the birth of Jesus –  “Ecce concipies in utero et paries filium et vocabis nomen eius jesum.”

As I turn this virtual road trip west and head over the Rocky Mountains, I wish a Merry Christmas to all who celebrate and a Happy New Year to all who adhere to the Gregorian calendar.

See you in Utah!colorado_snow


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Manuscript Road Trip: The Way to Wyoming

After several weeks of internet sleuthing and after corresponding with a half dozen very helpful curators and faculty members, I can happily report that there are in fact medieval manuscript leaves to be found in two states previously unrepresented in the Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings. The collections in Montana and Idaho described below will be included in the next update of the Directory, to be uploaded in early 2014. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover today, so let’s get started!

Blog mapFirst, the bad news. In 1935, the only  medieval manuscripts in North Dakota as recorded by de Ricci  were “a few leaves” belonging to one Albert Yoder of Grand Forks, ND. Unfortunately these are untraced, and none of the other major collections in the state report any manuscript holdings. So if there are any manuscripts in North Dakota, I haven’t been able to find them. Please let me know if any of you know otherwise!

Beautiful North Dakota

North Dakota

After a scenic interlude in North Dakota, then, we will turn left and head into Montana. I’ve found a few single leaves there, at the University of Montana in Missoula and at Montana State University in Bozeman. Given Montana’s vast size, that’s a pretty small leaves-per-square-mile ratio. The fact that there are even a few leaves in the state is significant, however, in that they provide important and precious resources for faculty and students. The leaf at U. Montana comes from a thirteenth-century Bible and was purchased by the library not long ago (my thanks to Jordan Goffin of the Providence (RI) public library for bringing this leaf to my attention). If you’re only going to have one leaf in your collection, a folio from a thirteenth-century Bible is a great choice, as it allows for an exploration of text, transmission, codicology and the economics and logistics of book production. I find myself a little uncertain about the origins of the leaf, however (with thanks to Donna McCrea for the image):

Leaf from a Bible in Latin, ca 1250. Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula (224.147 B58228L), recto

Leaf from a Bible in Latin, ca 1250. Archives and Special Collections, Maureen and Mike Mansfield Library, University of Montana-Missoula (224.147 B58228L), recto

The script has features that make me think it isn’t French (the [g], the uncrossed Tironian [et], the [a]). English, maybe? I welcome any and all opinions. This is not, by the way, from any of the Bibles cut up by Otto Ege for his “Fifty Leaves” set.

Moving on, at Montana State University we find this record, for the Harold Keith Collection of Book Leaves. It is unclear how many of these twelve “original leaves” are handwritten, but apparently at least one is, since the earliest is said to date from 1207 (a dated document, perhaps?).

Before we head into Idaho, here’s some Montana scenery…



So far, I have found only two leaves in Idaho. The University of Idaho owns one leaf from a liturgical manuscript, preserving the hymn “Virgo dei genetrix” (I should note that the transcribed incipit in the record should probably read “Virgo dei genetrix quem totus non capit orbis/ In tua se clausit viscera factus homo. Alleluia.”). The leaf hasn’t been digitized, and it’s not entirely clear what genre of liturgical manuscript it represents. At Boise State University, meanwhile, we find this lovely leaf  preserving  suffrages from a mid-fifteenth-century Book of Hours (the end of the Suffrage of St. Andrew and the Suffrage of Apostles on the recto, Stephen Protomartyr on the verso). The  square miniatures neatly incorporated into the floriate border make this leaf quite distinctive; I have certainly never seen other leaves from this manuscript, but if anyone recognizes it, please let me know! It was purchased for the library in Chicago in 1955. My thanks to Boise State’s Jim Durant for the info and photos:

Boise State University, Special Collections, MSS 112

Boise State University, Special Collections, MSS 112

Boise State verso

Boulder Mountains, Idaho

Boulder Mountains, Idaho

By the way, I hope these images have convinced you to rent an RV and drive around this gorgeous part of the country!

Having taken the long way ’round (virtually, and therefore with surprising efficiency), we’ll head east at last into Wyoming where we will find a comparatively large number of manuscripts at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. The Toppan Rare Books Library at the University’s American Heritage Center reported holdings of nine codices and five leaves. While there aren’t any MARC records for these manuscripts as of yet, you can see a few images here (there are images further down the page of a few illuminated incunables as well). The manuscripts are regularly used by faculty, and a handlist is forthcoming.

From Laramie, we’ll take I-80 eastbound and turn right at Cheyenne, quickly crossing into Colorado on I-25 southbound. Bundle up and meet me in Denver!

Some content on this page was disabled on July 8, 2015 as a result of a DMCA takedown notice from Dennis Flaherty. You can learn more about the DMCA here:


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Manuscript Road Trip: Braving the Badlands

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

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

Blog map

Before we head north into South Dakota, I want to call your attention to a manuscript road trip undertaken by the great scholar Dom Jean Mabillon (1632-1707). In the late seventeenth century, Mabillon travelled throughout Europe examining manuscripts in monastic and other libraries, and his handwritten notes are now available online through Gallica, the digital library of the Bibliothèque nationale de France (BnF MS Lat. 14187) (my thanks to @Erik_Kwakkel for tweeting this news!). On folio 16v, for example, Mabillon writes (in Latin): “[On the] 12th of August [1683] we came to Ottobeuren [in Bavaria], where there is an abbey of our Order…The church in that place is dedicated to the martyred saints Alexander and Theodore… The library has many manuscript codices.” That’s putting it mildly. Ottobeuren was a major center of manuscript production; here‘s one example of what those monks were up to in the twelfth century alone.

In the spirit of Dom Mabillon, then.

Of all the places in North America where one would NOT expect to find medieval manuscripts, the Badlands of South Dakota have got to be near the top of the list. And yet, there are a handful of medieval manuscripts just a few hours southeast of one of the most inaccessible spots in the country.

There is one pre-1600 European manuscript at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, a mid-fifteenth-century copy of the “Laus Maria” of Bernard of Clairvaux written in Italy. The manuscript was given to the University in 1976 by Herman P. Chilson as part of his massive collection of Western Americana. It is unclear why Chilson bought the manuscript in the first place; among his collection of documents and artifacts of the American West, it is a clear outlier. Chilson bought the manuscript in 1956 from New York bookdealer Hans P. Kraus, who had acquired it from the stock of Italian bookdealer Giuseppe Martini (1870-1944).

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

Badlands National Park, South Dakota

One hundred miles due north of Vermillion is South Dakota State University, which owns four manuscript leaves and one incunable page (scroll down the linked page a bit to find the medieval items). The leaves were given to SDSU by the estate of Morris Elmer Nellermoe, Jr. (1926-2004). According to his obituary and notes deposited at the library by his niece Diane Andresen in 2008, Nellermoe served in the Navy and traveled extensively throughout Europe. He was fluent in ten languages and worked for years as a translator at various institutions including the United Nations before spending the end of his professional career teaching foreign languages at Colorado State University. Nellermoe was an opera singer as well, with several recordings to his credit. According to his niece, he purchased the leaves from Ferdinand Roten Galleries in Baltimore, perhaps during his time working at the U.N. He brought them to South Dakota to show his family on several occasions, but as he grew older and moved into a retirement community, the leaves disappeared from his family’s view. They found them at last hidden away under a pile of clothing and newspapers in the bottom drawer of his bureau. The leaves were among his greatest treasures, along with a large collection of Bibles and his opera records. Nellermoe was not a wealthy collector like the men we have encountered in the past two weeks – Byron Reed and C. A. Hickes, or even Herman Chilson mentioned above. According to his niece, Nellermoe bought these leaves because he considered them precious relics of his faith, and as skilled linguist, he could probably read them.

Leaf from a Book of Hours given to South Dakota State University by Morris Nellermoe

Leaf from a Book of Hours given to South Dakota State University by Morris Nellermoe, recto

None of these leaves have miniatures, and some have hardly any decoration at all. Prices written by the Gallery in the lower margin indicate that each cost well under $100. But I can see the appeal of the leaf at right, for example, to a devout Latin-literate Christian. This leaf, from a mid-fifteenth-century Book of Hours from France, preserves the prayer attributed to Bede that meditates on the final seven statements uttered by Jesus. The lengthy rubric promises that he who recites this prayer daily on bended knee will be safe from “the devil or wicked men” and will be ushered into the presence of the Virgin Mary. The first of the final seven utterances is found in red near the bottom of the leaf: “Pater ignosce crucifigentibus me” (“Father, forgive those who crucify me” (Luke 23:34)). The final utterance is found on the verso: “Sitio” (“I thirst”). It is a poignant meditation, and one that would certainly have appealled to a man such as Nellermoe.

When we initially compiled our Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings,  Melissa Conway and I did not find even a single leaf in North Dakota, Montana or Idaho. We didn’t find anything in South Dakota either, but because this week’s internet sleuthing uncovered the manuscripts we looked at today, I’m now scouring the internet for any signs of medieval manuscripts in the other three states. If I find any, you’ll be the first to know! If not, we’ll just take a scenic “drive” through all three states (because it wouldn’t be road trip if we didn’t visit every state) and meet up in Wyoming.

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