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!
First, 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!
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):
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:
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!
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