Monthly Archives: January 2014

Manuscript Road Trip: NorCal

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

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

For the last few weeks, we’ve been making our way through states with relatively few medieval manuscripts. California is a different story entirely. At last count, there were more than 8,500 pre-1600 manuscripts in 47 collections in the state of California. So this may take a few weeks!

working mapLet’s start in the San Francisco area, at the University of California at Berkeley. UC Berkeley is home to Digital Scriptorium, the digital repository for 25,000 images from 6,500 manuscripts in 31 U. S. collections. The metadata is stored in an XML platform specifically designed to address the challenges of creating electronic records for unique handwritten materials (for example, the DS platform handles composite manuscripts much more elegantly than MARC). The collection is growing, and the project, free to users but supported by membership fees from contributing institutions, is a model of self-sustainability. Note to cataloguers (the rest of you should skip to the next paragraph): working with MARC cataloguers at Yale, DS has now established a template for MARC records that will cross-walk into the DS XML format, allowing institutions to export their OPAC records to DS with minimal rekeying. This is big news, people.

David admiring Bathsheba's bare calves (somehow I think the Spanish Forger would have handled this moment differently) (UC Berkeley, Bancroft MS 131, f. 141)

David admiring Bathsheba’s bare calves (somehow I think the Spanish Forger would have handled this moment differently) (UC Berkeley, Bancroft MS 131, f. 141)

But back to the manuscripts. The Bancroft Library at Berkeley counts around 300 codices and hundreds of leaves among its collection, most of which have been catalogued and at least partially digitized through Digital Scriptorium. There are so many fantastic manuscripts at Berkeley that I can’t possibly survey them here; I encourage you to explore Digital Scriptorium on your own. Many of the manuscripts have an esteemed provenance. I’m particularly interested in two in particular, because they come from the Romanesque Italian monastery at Morimundo:

Univ. of California  - Berkeley, Bancroft Library MS 4, f. 79v (detail)

Univ. of California – Berkeley, Bancroft Library MS 4, f. 79v (detail)

Univ. of California - Berkeley, Bancroft Library, MS 6, f. 1 (detail)

Univ. of California – Berkeley, Bancroft Library, MS 6, f. 1 (detail)

The first image (below) is of a scribal colphon, in which the scribe asks for the prayers of the reader and promises in return to “defend” the reader before God (“Omnes valete et pro me scriptore rogate/ Ut me vobiscum dominus defensare dignetur”). This is followed by a rare inscription dated 1298 that gives the name of the commissioner of the manuscript (Beltramus de Redoldi) and places the creation of the manuscript in the abbey of Morimundo. It is quite rare to have the details laid out so clearly in a thirteenth-century manuscript.

The second manuscript, at right, dates from the twelfth century. It is a compilation of several texts, the first of which is Hugh of Fouilloy’s De claustro animae. In the late twelfth-century, the monks of Morimundo recorded a list of books in their library at the end of a manuscript that now belongs to the Houghton Library at Harvard (pf MS Typ 223, f. 227v):

pf MS Typ 223, f. 227v (detail)

Harvard Univ., Houghton Library, pf MS Typ 223, f. 227v (detail)

Bancroft MS 6 is the 44th volume on the list,  tucked between Bernard of Clairvaux and Isidore of Seville and titled “De materiali claustro” (detail).

Remarkably, many of the manuscripts on the list can actually be identified with extant codices (for more on the Morimundo catalogue, see Mirella Ferrari, “Sui ‘Salmi’ e sui ‘Profeti’: dal primo catalogo di Morimondo alla Biblioteca Braidense,” in Studi di Storia dell’arte in onore di Maria Luisa Gatti Perer, ed. Marco Rossi and Alessandro Rovetta (Milan, 1999), pp. 33-46).

UC Berkeley Phillipps

Phillipps ex libris and stamp (Univ. of California – Berkeley, Bancroft Library MS 5

Speaking of provenance, it’s high time we met the most obsessive and prolific manuscript collector of all time.  Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872) was a compulsive collector, to put it mildly. He was notorious for buying up entire lots himself, and while he was knowledgeable about parts of his collection, when you look at the big picture it does seem as though he may have been more interested in the number of books in his collection at his Middle Hill estate than in their content. At the time of his death, he owned more than 60,000 manuscripts; it took his estate more than 70 years to sell the collection in a series of Sotheby’s auctions. There are dozens of Phillipps manuscripts in US collections, including twenty-five at UC Berkeley alone. They’re easily recognizeable by the Middle Hill ex libris stamp and the distinctively written shelfmarks.

The Oxford Dictionary of Biography gives a nice summary of Phillipps’ life, although the ultimate reference for the collection is the five-volume work by A. N. L. Munby, Phillipps Studies (1951-60).

Other collections in the San Francisco area include the De Bellis Collection at San Francisco State University (mostly documentary); the Sutro Collection at the State Library of California; and the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco (a few leaves and cuttings).

Before we leave the Bay area completely and head south down the coast, we’ll make a stop in Palo Alto at Stanford University.

Stanford has digitized several hundred fragments and some leaves of codices in their collection here. Many of these are binding fragments and show interesting signs of use and wear, such as this late-twelfth century leaf from a Bible (preserving part of II Kings). These leaves have much to teach us about medieval binding techniques. For example, it’s fairly obvious how this leaf (below) was cut and folded to create a book cover.

Stanford Univ. Special Collections MS M1737

Stanford Univ. Special Collections MS M1737

Some leaves require a slightly deeper dive into material evidence to sort out their re-use, like this mid-twelfth-century Austrian antiphonal (below). Those of you who have known me for a while may know that twelfth-century Austrian liturgical manuscripts are a particular interest of mine, so this fragment caught my attention.

Stanford Univ. Special Collections MS M1775

Stanford Univ. Special Collections MS M1775

First let’s look at the leaf itself. Although it is catalogued as  a breviary (a priest’s book for the daily Offices), it is actually an antiphonal (also an Office book, but for the use of the choir, not the priest). It preserves only musical chants, using the interlinear neumatic notation typical of Romanesque Austria. The notations in the left margin are “tonary letters,” a system also used in Romanesque Austria that essentially tells the choir in what key each piece was to be sung (there’s a much more complicated musicological explanation, but this will do for our purposes). The text is of some interest as it preserves the liturgy for Trinity Sunday, i.e. the Sunday after Pentecost, a feast that was not officially sanctioned by the Catholic Church until the papacy of John XXII (1316-34). Finally, the initial [G] (for “Gloria tibi trinitas”) is a typical Romanesque Austrian “white-vine” style, with the characteristic closed buds at the end of the vines and decorative bands squeezing the body of the letter.

The leaf was cut to the size of a smaller book (probably in the fourteenth or fifteenth century) to be used as a free flyleaf at the front or back. If there had been paste damage on the other side, I would have concluded that the leaf had been a paste-down inside the cover, but the other side is just as clean as this, indicating that it was a free flyleaf. The tab partially preserved along the bottom edge is where the flyleaf was sewn into the book, with the tab protruding after the first gathering. The triangular notch was a sewing hole. Finally, small brown dots in each corner are rust marks left by decorative bosses nailed to the cover of the book. At some point, the leaf was removed from the binding as a recognized collectible in its own right; Stanford bought it from dealer Bernard Quaritch in 2010.

Stanford Univ. Special Collections, Florentine Book of Hours

Stanford Univ. Special Collections, MSS Codex 1052 T

Lest you think that Stanford’s collection is all cut-up binding fragments, I will leave you with this beauty, a late-fifteenth-century Florentine Book of Hours.

Next week, we’ll virtually visit one of my favorite places to watch the sun set over the Pacific, visit old friends in the Impressionist Gallery and admire one of the greatest manuscript collections in the country: the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles.

p.s. there was an article in the Boston Globe yesterday about my blog, with a photo gallery here. My thanks to reporter Kathy Burge and photographer Lane Turner, as well as to the curators who kindly gave us permission to reproduce images from their manuscripts.

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Manuscript Road Trip: The Spanish Forger

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

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

One of the most rewarding things about this virtual road trip I’m on is learning about collections that are new to me. A comment on last week’s post pointed me towards the manuscripts owned by Reed College in Portland, Oregon, among which is a leaf illuminated by the Spanish Forger. This reminded me that I promised several months ago to devote a post to the Forger, and before I delve into the riches of California’s manuscript collections, I thought now would be a good time to get off the proverbial highway and follow through.

I first encountered the Spanish Forger in 1997 while working for private collector Lawrence J. Schoenberg, whose collection is now part of the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. At that time, he owned the piece shown below, a framed miniature of a group of young nobles playing chess.

Univ. of Pennsylvania, LJS MS 33

Univ. of Pennsylvania, LJS MS 33

I was immediately enchanted and amazed, both by the delightfully saccharine setting and by the Forger’s sheer nerve in attempting, and for some time pulling off, such a massive deception. I’ve been a fan ever since.

The Spanish Forger painted numerous miniatures and panels in a late-medieval style at the end of the 19th and into the 20th century. No one knows who he was, but given the number of leaves and panels attributed to him, he must have made a significant amount of money selling his forgeries to an unsuspecting audience.

The Betrothal of St. Ursula (The Morgan Library and Museum, New York)

The Betrothal of St. Ursula (The Morgan Library and Museum, New York)

The story of the Spanish Forger begins with this panel painting of “The Betrothal of St. Ursula,” a painting that had been ascribed to fifteenth-century Spain on stylistic grounds. In 1930, Belle da Costa Greene (a prominent art historian who had been J. P. Morgan’s private librarian and who was one of the first women to be elected a Fellow of the Medieval Academy of America) refused to support its purchase for New York’s Metropolitan Museum because she suspected it was a forgery. Greene’s life story, by the way, is pretty extraordinary. Her father, Richard Theodore Greener, was the first African-American to graduate from Harvard, and Belle lived her life as a black woman “passing” and moving easily among the New York elite in the early twentieth century.

It was Greene – at that time curator of the Pierpont Morgan Library – who first identified the Spanish Forger’s distinctive characteristics and gave him his name. After the St. Ursula panel  was later tested using neutron activation analysis, it was discovered that the green pigment in the painting was copper arsenite a.k.a. Paris Green, which was not available before 1814, confirming Greene’s suspicions.  Because French newsprint has been found behind some of his panels, it is suspected that he actually worked in Paris, but the name Greene gave him has stuck. In 1988, the painting that gave the Spanish Forger his name was given to the Morgan Library and Museum.

To his credit, the Forger always worked on medieval parchment or panels. He scraped paint from wood or text from parchment, painting forged miniatures on authentic supports, knowing full well that – in the case of manuscripts – illustrated leaves were much more valuable than unillustrated. While preparing a major exhibit of the Forger’s work for the Morgan Library in 1978, curator William Voelkle discovered that the Forger had based much of his work on illustrations found in five volumes on medieval and Renaissance life and culture by Paul Lacroix (published between 1869-1882); Morgan and Lacroixmany of his paintings are clear copies of Lacroix illustrations, as shown here.

The Forger’s style is easy to recognize. His faces often have a pronounced tilt, certainly, but one feature is particularly distinctive; the ladies in his noble settings display a prominent décolletage that would never have been found in an authentic medieval painting. Technical features of his work also give him away.

The Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 786c

The Morgan Library and Museum, MS M. 786c

In a genuine medieval manuscript, the gold leaf would have been applied before the colors. The Forger tended to apply his gold as a final step; a close examination of his work often finds gold overlapping the color rather than the (correct) other way around.

Columbia University, Special Collections, Plimpton Add. MS 18

NY, Columbia Univ., Plimpton Add. MS 18

All of these features – head tilt, cleavage, and gold-overlap – are evident in the miniature at left, a cutting in the collection at Columbia University. At first glance, this miniature appears to be an authentic medieval scene of three nobles playing chess in a courtly setting. But if you turn the piece over, the Forger’s cleverness in using medieval parchment betrays him.

Columbia University, Special Collections, Plimpton Add. MS 18 (dorse)

NY, Columbia Univ., Plimpton Add. MS 18 (dorse)

The dorse (shown below) is a snippet of liturgy from the celebration of Pentecost, a text that most certainly would never have been illustrated by a courtly scene of lords and ladies playing chess. This disconnect is typical of the Forger’s work, as the subjects of his miniatures rarely relate to the text they accompany. In addition, the vertical text in the lower right corner is a catchword, indicating that, if the leaf were whole, the miniature would have been found in the extreme lower left-hand corner of the other side, a placement totally at odds with medieval page-layout practices.

Voelkle’s catalogue of the 1978 exhibit includes a handlist of more than one hundred works attributed to the Forger (see W. Voelkle, The Spanish Forger). He has recently updated this catalogue raisonné to include well over two hundred identified works (see “The Spanish Forger: Master of Manuscript Chicanery” in Thomas Coomans & Jan De Maeyer, eds., The Revival of Medieval Illumination: Nineteenth-Century Belgium Manuscripts and Illuminations from a European Perspective (Leuven, 2007, pp. 207-227)). The Forger essentially flooded the market with leaves and miniatures at a time when collectors were clamoring for such things. He must have made a fortune.

Spanish Forger Road Trip

Spanish Forger Road Trip

In addition to Columbia University, the Morgan Library and Reed College, the Forger’s work can be found in many other public U. S. collections. In fact, you could make your way from East Coast to West on a Spanish Forger road trip alone, visiting New Hampshire (Dartmouth College),  Massachusetts (Harvard University, the Boston Athenaeum, Wellesley College and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), Connecticut ( Yale University), New York (Columbia University, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library and Museum), Pennsylvania (the University of Pennsylvania and the Free Library of Philadelphia), Maryland ( the Walters Art Museum), Ohio (the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College and the Cincinnati Art Museum), Michigan (Michigan State University), Texas (the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin), Colorado (the University of Colorado, Boulder), and Oregon (Reed College). I’m sure I’ve missed a few. Ironically, the Forger’s works are now collectibles in their own right and sell for thousands of dollars; recent sales at Christie’s and Sotheby’s attest to the Forger’s popularity, and there are many U. S. collectors and dealers who own examples of his work. I’d love to own one of his paintings myself.

Last week, we explored manuscripts in Washington and Oregon. Let’s get back on I-5 now and make a quick stop at Reed College in Portland before we turn south to California. The cuttings at Harvard and Columbia as well as the leaf recently sold at Sotheby’s are all closely related to the Spanish Forger miniature owned by Reed  (shown below). The Forger made use of several dozen leaves from this large early-fifteenth-century Italian antiphonal, retaining the original borders but replacing the top few lines of music on each leaf with a secular scene (see Voelkle p. 75, “choirbook stock A”).  The Reed leaf was L18 in the Voelkle catalogue (fig. 234), at which time it belonged to Harry A. Levinson of Beverly Hills, California. Reed acquired the leaf from Bloomsbury Auction House in 2008.

Reed College Special Collections, BX875.A2 S63

Reed College Special Collections, BX875.A2 S63

The Reed College leaf preserves the antiphon “Quidcumque ligaveris,” a piece sung during the celebration of feasts of St. Peter. The illustration is completely at odds with the text, showing instead the triumphant entry of Crusaders into Jerusalem. The Spanish Forger was marketing to an early twentieth-century audience that was more interested in Gothic illustration than Latin text. His commercial success depended on buyers who wouldn’t notice the text/image disconnect or the stylistic inconsistencies.

He didn’t count on Belle da Costa Greene.


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Manuscript Road Trip: The Pacific at Last

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

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

This week we will finally reach the Pacific Ocean, having crossed the northern half of the United States from Maine to Washington. After we make our way through Washington and Oregon, we’ll continue southward down the California coast before turning back towards the Atlantic. working map

We begin inland at Washington State University in Pullman. WSU holds twenty-five single leaves, some of which I catalogued remotely some years ago. They haven’t been digitized, but the handlist is thorough, providing dimensions, contents, incipits and explicits.

In spite of its reputation as one of the rainiest locales in the US, Seattle is a beautiful city, with the Bay to the west and Mt. Ranier to the east. seattleThere are several collections in the city with medieval manuscript holdings. A search in the collections database at the Seattle Art Museum yields several nice leaves of Persian as well as European origin. A few miles north, the University of Washington has recently launched an excellent site devoted to their Medieval Manuscripts. This site is definitely worth exploring, as the University holds dozens of leaves dating from the twelfth through the fifteenth century, including some interesting binding fragments as well as leaves from dismembered books. Among these is another leaf of the Beauvais Missal,

Leaf from the Beauvais Missal (UW MS 65 verso)

Leaf from the Beauvais Missal (UW MS 65 verso)

this one preserving liturgy for the Translation of St. Arnulf of Metz followed by the liturgy for St. Margaret, apparently consecutive with a leaf formerly belonging to Arthur Vershbow that was sold at Christie’s on 9-10 April 2013 (that leaf is described, albeit not illustrated, here). Several of the U. Washington leaves were formerly in the collection of Judge Walter Beals (Olympia, Washington), described in the 1935 de Ricci Census, II:2188-2191; each of the ex-Beals manuscripts has a Beals shelfmark, although the current U. Washington shelfmarks do not correspond with the Beals numbers in de Ricci (in fact, I didn’t realize until this morning that there were so many Beals manuscripts at U. Washington, so I will update the Directory accordingly). For example, de Ricci’s Beals 31 is now U. Washington Beals 20. Here’s a partial concordance of Census-Beals and U. Washington-Beals shelfmarks:

de Ricci Beals concordance

It’s worth noting that the University also owns at least one medieval codex, an interesting collection of humanistic texts.

We’re going to get to know Interstate 5 very well over the next few weeks as we make our way south from Seattle to Los Angeles. All of our stops in Oregon are right off the highway, beginning with Portland. Portland State University’s Professor Anne McClanan has worked with her students to put together a very thorough and useful resource for medieval artifacts in the Portland area, including a database of manuscripts in several collections. Willamette University in Salem has digitized their Book of Hours here, while Oregon State University in Corvallis provides a handlist that combines printed and manuscript leaves. At OSU you will also find an online exhibit tracing the history of book arts. The University of Oregon in Eugene provides a handlist of their manuscripts, some of which have been digitized.

Mt. Angel Abbey, St. Benedict, Oregon

Mt. Angel Abbey, St. Benedict, Oregon

Finally (those of you from Oregon will probably notice that I’m not actually going in order from north to south, but humor me, please), we’ll visit the Benedictine monks at Mt. Angel Abbey in the town of St. Benedict. Like the monks we visited at St. John’s in Minnesota, the monks of Mt. Angel have always taken a great interest in their patrimony. They’ve been working for some time on a digitization project for the medieval manuscripts in their collection. The ongoing project is online here, where you will find links to PDFs of the manuscripts. These are large files and may take some time to open, but be patient, the payoff is worth the wait!

The Adoration of the Magi (N. France, ca. 1525) (Mt. Angel Abbey, MS0029, f. 60)

The Adoration of the Magi (N. France, ca. 1525) (Mt. Angel Abbey, MS 29, f. 60)

MS 29 (illustrated at left) is a particular beauty. This early sixteenth-century Book of Hours is almost certainly that sold at Sotheby’s from the collection of Sir John Northwick in 1928 (sold 21 May 1925, lot 25; Schoenberg database record 23437). The manuscript was sold by Sotheby’s again on 3 December 1951 (lot 23).

Mt. Angel MS 30 is also of interest because it includes several donor portraits. It was not uncommon for the wealthy patrons who commissioned a Book of Hours to have themselves inserted into the miniatures as prayerful observers. In this Book of Hours, written for the use of Rouen in the late fifteenth century, the donors appear twice. First, we encounter the husband and wife in the lower margin (somewhat damaged, unfortunately) of the opening miniature of Matins, with their coats of arms between them:

Matins, Hours of the Virgin (Mt. Angel Abbey, MS0030, f. 13)

Matins, Hours of the Virgin (Mt. Angel Abbey, MS 30, f. 13)

This is a rather odd illustration of the Annunciation, as it includes several extra – unidentified – characters.

The donors appear again on folio 135 in the miniature of the Crucifixion that opens a French meditation:

The Crucifixion (Mt. Angel Abbey, MS 0030, f. 135)

The Crucifixion (Mt. Angel Abbey, MS  30, f. 135)

In this miniature, the Lady kneels at the left of the scene while the Gentleman kneels in the margin wearing armor covered with his Coat of Arms, the same arms seen in the lower margin of folio 13.

These arms are as yet unidentified.

I’ll spend the next few weeks virtually exploring manuscripts in California; there are a lot of them, and it’s going to take at least two posts. So keep going south on I-5 and I’ll meet you in Sacramento.


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Manuscript Road Trip: A Welshman in Reno

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

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

Happy new year!

We’ll pick up where we left off at the end of 2013, heading west through Utah towards Nevada. Blog map

When Melissa Conway and I published our Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings, we knew of no manuscripts in the entire state of Nevada. As it turns out, until recently the Nevada Museum of Art did own four medieval manuscripts. All were de-accessioned in 2013 to raise funds for the Museum, since they did not really fit the Museum’s collection parameters. The manuscripts were sold by Christie’s on 12 June 2013 as lots 23, 24, 25, and 26.

Happily, these turn out not to have been the only medieval manuscripts in the state of Nevada after all. Further internet sleuthing and correspondence with several very helpful curators and faculty has resulted in one collection for us to add to the next edition of the Directory: the University of Nevada in Reno.

The University of Nevada-Reno owns several medieval leaves along with an impressive quarto-sized codex that has been little studied (hence the minimal MARC record). The images below were generously sent to me by curator Donnelyn Curtis. The page on the left of the opening is from the end of a breviary, preserving what appears to be the Common of Evangelists. The spine is broken, and at least one quire is missing. On the right, the historiated initial [B] illustrating King David begins a Ferial Psalter (“Beatus vir,” Psalm 1; detail below). Based on other images I’ve seen, the codex actually seems to be a Book of Hours, Breviary AND Ferial Psalter in one binding, comprising several hundred leaves. The manuscript was written in northern France in the mid-fifteenth century and was given to the Library by Gareth Hughes in 1964.

Codex given by Gareth Hughes, Special Collections, University of Nevada at Reno

Codex given by Gareth Hughes, Special Collections, University of Nevada at Reno

Detail: King David inhabiting an initial [B] for "Beatus vir" (Psalm 1)

Detail: King David inhabiting an initial [B] for “Beatus vir” (Psalm 1)

 You can see a bit more of the manuscript in this clip, provided to me by Stephen Lyons:

Gareth Hughes (1894 - 1965)

Gareth Hughes (1894 – 1965)

We’ve met some interesting characters in our travels so far, but we haven’t encountered anyone like Gareth Hughes. Born William John Hughes in 1894, Gareth Hughes was a Welsh actor who made a name for himself on Broadway in the 1910s and in the Hollywood silent film industry of the 1920s.

Interior of Gareth Hughes' Hollywood home, ca. 1926 (photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

Interior of Gareth Hughes’ Hollywood home, ca. 1926 (photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

Hughes enjoyed the lavish and perhaps even promiscuous lifestyle of a Hollywood darling throughout the 1920s, and his opulent Los Angeles home revealed an early interest in the Gothic aesthetic. He continued to act in film and onstage sporadically even after the 1929 stock market crash left him penniless. His work in the 1930s as Director of  Shakespearean and Religious Theatre in Los Angeles may have spurred a religious transformation; in the early 1940s, Hughes took monastic vows at the Protestant Episcopal Monastery of the Society of St. John the Evangelist in Cambridge, Massachusetts, taking the name “Brother David” (perhaps in honor of St. David, patron of Wales). He was sent to Nevada in 1944 as a missionary to the Paiute tribe at Pyramid Lake where he served with fervor and devotion for more than a decade.

Gareth Hughes with his young mission charges in 1949

Gareth Hughes with his young mission charges in 1949 (see

While teaching at Pyramid Lake, Hughes joined the English Department at the University of Nevada in Reno, contributing a portion of his earnings to the Mission. While he found his missionary work extremely satisfying, it was exhausting and difficult. He left in 1956 and took a position as an officiant at a Reno wedding chapel. Hughes grave After a brief return to Wales, Hughes retired to California in 1958 to live the remainder of his life in the Motion Picture Country Home in Woodland Hills, a retirement community for members of the film industry. He died in 1965 of complications from byssinosis, a lint-born respiratory disease he contracted from years of sorting donated clothing at Pyramid Lake, and his cremated remains were buried at the Masonic Memorial Gardens cemetery in Reno.

Gareth Hughes' leaf collection on the wall of his cottage at the Motion Picture Country Home, ca. 1963

Gareth Hughes’ leaf collection on the wall of his cottage at the Motion Picture Country Home, 1963

No one knows when or how he acquired the Breviary/Psalter, but it was clearly part of a larger collection of rare books and manuscripts that he displayed in several public exhibits in Nevada after World War II. Hughes biographer Stephen Lyons believes that he must have acquired the manuscripts before the crash of 1929, probably over the course of several European trips taken during the 1920s. The photo at left (with thanks to Stephen Lyons) was taken at the Motion Picture Country Home in 1963; several of the leaves on the wall can be identified as leaves now in the possession of the University of Nevada-Reno. The undated image below may have been taken at the exhibit that accompanied the gift of the collection to the University of Nevada-Reno in 1964; note that Hughes is not dressed in clerical vestments, suggesting that he had left the Mission by this time.

Hughes at an exhibit of his collection (n.p., n.d., photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

Hughes at an exhibit of his collection (n.p., n.d., photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

The BoH/Breviary/Psalter is almost certainly the manuscript described in the second paragraph of this article from the Nevada State Journal (6 January 1946):

Rare Book Collection Displayed at Meeting

Specimens from a priceless collection of rare books were displayed by Dr. Gareth Hughes this week at a meeting of the Reno Poetry Workshop held at the home of Mrs. Ray J. Root. Dr. Hughes’ collection, described as “first rate” by literary authorities at the University of Nevada, includes an original Fourth Folio edition of Shakespeare dating back to the seventeenth century, a Quarto Edition of Shakespeare and a great many other early and rare editions.

Workshop members had the pleasure of examining a Fourteenth Century breviary written on vellum and bound in velvet and wood. Illustrations of the work are done in gold and lapis, and colors of the illuminations are described as clear and fresh. Dr. Hughes explained the use of the breviary entitled the “Book of Hours,” stating it was employed by wealthy families of the period for their private prayer services.

Dr. Hughes’ collection also includes manuscripts from the Sixteenth, Seventeenth and Eighteenth centuries, it was stated. At present pastor of the Union church at Wadsworth, Dr. Hughes is a former Shakespearian actor with experience both on the legitimate stage and in the early films. He presented several interpretations of Shakespearian characters before the Workshop, including his version of Shylock and scenes from Richard the Second, which were enthusiastically received. For a closing entertainment, he read Celtic and Gaelic poetry from a collection of songs, poems and chants by Fiona MacCloud, entitled “The Hills of Dreams”. His delivery of the poems was described as inspirational in meaning and beauty.

At the close of the evening, refreshments were served by the hostesses, Mesdames Ray Root and Galen DeLongchcamps. Those present were Mesdames Galen DeLongchamps, Ted McGowan, James Mullen, Harry Bruce, F. A. Denton, Ray Root; Messrs. Harry Bruce, Galen DeLongchamps, James R. Daugherty and Dr. Gareth Hughes.

The story of his life as gleaned from various internet sources only scratches the surface of Gareth Hughes’ fascinating journey, a journey on which the Breviary/Psalter was his sometime companion. These quotes, gathered from biographer Stephen Lyons’ website, seem to perfectly capture the varied facets of Gareth Hughes’ life and work:

Isadora Duncan called him “the worlds greatest dancer”.
David Belasco, legend of American Theatre, thought he brought to mind “green fields, altar candles – and a brothel.”
Cecil B. De Mille called him the “young idealist”. 
The Bishop of Nevada wrote of him “He is the only white man I have ever known who seems to win immediately the unreserved affection of the Paiute people.  He is the most effective teacher of the simple essentials of the Catholic faith I have ever known”.

I suspect Hughes himself would have been most proud of the latter.

Brother David at Lake Pyramid, Nevada (photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

Brother David in Nevada, ca. 1950 (photo courtesy of Special Collections, University of Nevada-Reno)

n.b. My thanks to Donnelyn Curtis (University of Nevada-Reno Head of Special Collections) for the images and to Stephen Lyons and Kelvin Guy for much of the biographical information related above.


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