On the way to New Orleans from Arkansas, I wanted to make a virtual stop at the University of Mississippi. But if this were an actual road trip, we’d drive through Memphis, Tennessee to get to Ole Miss. So as long as we’re “driving” through, we’ll make two stops in Memphis: the Memphis Brooks Art Museum and Rhodes College (we’ll check out other Tennessee collections in a few weeks). As far as I know, there aren’t any medieval manuscripts at Graceland, so we’ll just drive by the gates and pay our respects to Elvis en route.
The Memphis Brooks Museum of Art reports holdings of twelve manuscript leaves, although only one seems to be reproduced on their website. The image is low-resolution but is clear enough to identify it as a leaf from a Book of Hours, ca. 1440, preserving the opening of the Office of the Dead. With thanks to Marilyn Massler, the Museum’s Associate Registrar, I am able to share two images with you that she kindly sent to me: Acq. 56.27 (the Book of Hours linked above) and Acq. 56.30 (a calendar leaf from a Book of Hours).
In Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, Scott Gwara identifies some of the Museum’s leaves as having an Ege provenance: see Gwara, Handlist 21, 31 (this is MBMA 56.27), 46 (this is 56.30), 69 and 74.
At Rhodes College, the Hanson Collection of Leaves from Books and Manuscripts has been completely digitized (but not catalogued) here. These are all Ege leaves, mostly from two portfolios (Hanson Collection 1 is from Original Leaves from Famous Bibles: Nine centuries, 1121-1935 A.D. and Hanson Collection 2 is Original Leaves from Famous Books: Eight Centuries, 1240 A.D. – 1923 A.D.).
Remarkably, the Rhodes leaf from a well-known Ege copy of Livy’s History of Rome (not the Livy in the Fifty Original Leaves portfolio, however) happens to be the final leaf of the manuscript and includes a colophon recording the manuscript’s date of completion, 21 September 1456 (Gwara, Handlist 52). Ege’s description of the manuscript gives the date as 1436, a misreading of the colophon. Once Ege had dismembered the manuscript and scattered its leaves, that mis-information continued to be attached to the leaves via the letterpress label Ege adhered to each matte; leaves from this manuscript are therefore usually catalogued with the incorrect date (for example, here, here, and here). Let this be a cautionary tale: metadata, even bad metadata, is sticky and can hang around unquestioned for decades.
The are ten leaves in the Priscian Fragment Collection in the Archives and Special Collections department at Ole Miss (a.k.a. the University of Mississippi, in Oxford). These have also been digitized and can be found here. Among these are four bifolia from a very nice thirteenth-century manuscript of Donatus’ grammar handbook (below) and a leaf of an early-fifteenth-century Book of Hours with really exquisite and ornate rinceaux in the margins (below).
It should not surprise you to find several Ege leaves in this collection as well: no. 5 is FOL 39 (Gwara Handlist 39, the other Livy), and no. 6 is FOL 1 (Gwara Handlist 1, a glossed twelfth-century Bible). The highlights for me, though, and almost certainly the oldest bits of parchment in the state, are three tenth-century fragments from three different manuscripts of Priscian’s Grammar:
These three fragments, the founding pieces of the Priscian Collection, were once owned by Ernst Joseph Alexander Seyfert (1745-1832), a scholar who studied the history of grammar education, a topic in which Priscian and Donatus figure quite prominently.
Road trips are about the journey, not the destination, and are by definition prone to detours and side trips. Next week, I promise we’ll reach New Orleans!