A few weeks ago, we “drove” through Memphis, Tennessee, on our way to Mississippi. Today, we’ll head back into Tennessee to visit the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Vanderbilt University in Nashville before moving on to Kentucky.
The University of Tennesee in Knoxville owns a breviary and several manuscript leaves, some of which are on deposit and technically belong to the Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I thank Prof. Heather Hirschfeld and Anne Bridges for these images:
In Nashville, the Vanderbilt University Fine Arts Gallery owns two leaves, one of which is notable for its incomplete state. The foreground and tower in this miniature of St. Margaret emerging from the dragon have been drawn but left unfinished. This leaf begins the French verse life of St. Margaret, “Apres la saincte passion,” that we have encountered before. The miniature has been closely trimmed and adhered to some kind of backing.
As we head into Kentucky, we’ll drive past the Cistercian Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani in New Haven. The abbey owns an impressive collection of Cistercian manuscripts, but as they are all on permanent deposit at the Cistercian Center at Western Michigan University, you will have to visit Kalamazoo to see them. A handlist is online here. This is a great example, by the way, of why Melissa Conway and I chose to publish our Directory of Collections in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings online instead of in print; the Directory entry for Gethsemani is now out-of-date but will be corrected when we post the next update in a few months.
At Berea College we find another Ege leaf set, “Original leaves from famous Bibles : nine centuries 1121-1935 A.D,” a set that includes three manuscript leaves: a leaf from an Armenian bible, dated 1221; a leaf from a small Bible of the mid-thirteenth century; and a leaf from a Parisian Bible of the early fourteenth century.
Lexington holds a trove of notable manuscripts and documents. The University of Kentucky owns fifteen early codices, all of which are currently undergoing digitization. Two are available online already: MS Lat KY VIII and MS Lat KY IX. My thanks to Gordon Hogg and Sarah Dorpinghaus for pointing them out to me.
KY VIII is a fascinating compilation of penitential texts, including a calendar for Ambrosian use, the prayer “Dulcissime domine ihesu” attributed to St. Augustine, the Penitential Psalms, and a confession rite that includes an exquisite and detailed penwork Tau cross (below), something I have not encountered before:
MS Lat KY IX combines a beautiful late fourteenth-century Book of Hours with a somewhat less elaborate one dating from about a century later. The early miniatures are really spectacular, with lively peasant scenes in the margins:
The transitions between the earlier and later sections offer a dramatic juxtaposition of styles:
The University is also home to several hundred documents from medieval Spain, several of which were written in the twelfth century. The entire collection has been expertly catalogued and digitized, available online here. This is an extraordinary resource for the study of medieval Iberia.
Our last stop, also in Lexington, is Transylvania University, where we will find a beautiful codex written in the midlands of England around 1430 that contains a Psalter and the Office of the Dead (I thank Special Collections Librarian BJ Gooch for the images). The manuscript has an important and fascinating history, some of which I have just sorted out in the past few days.
The first leaf, a calendar page for January and February, shows the typical signs of iconoclastic “editing” done during the Reformation. On January 6, the entry for the Octave of St. Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, has been scraped away, as has the designation “Papae” (Pope) after the name of St. Marcellus on January 16. Both of these excisions are typical of “edits” to English calendars made in the sixteenth century when the adoption of Church of England rites required that old liturgical books be brought into agreement with Reformation tenets. In addition to the general rejection of the papacy, this included the revocation of the sainthood of Thomas Becket as decreed by King Henry VIII in 1538.
An early owner added the death-anniversary of a Thomas Knollys to the calendar on February 8. This is the Thomas Knollys who served as Lord Mayor of London in 1399 and 1410 and who died on February 8, 1435. I have found a Psalter associated with the Knollys family mentioned in the will of John Welles, recorded in London on 7 June 1442: “Item lego Thome Knolles civi et grocero London’ meum psalterium in Latinis discriptum” (“I leave my Latin Psalter to Thomas Knolles, citizen and grocer of London”) (there is a translation of the will online here, but if you prefer the original Latin you’ll find it in The Register of Henry Chichele, Archbishop of Canterbury, vol. II (Oxford, 1938), p. 616). The Lord Mayor had died by 1442, and the Thomas mentioned in the will is Thomas Knollys the Younger, executor of the will and the Mayor’s son. This, then, appears to be the very Psalter that was bequeathed to him by Welles. When he owned the book, Thomas would have added the anniversary of his father’s death to the Calendar.
An inscription on the first flyleaf, probably from the eighteenth century or so (detail above), misidentifies the Knollys in the calendar as a family member who died in 1407, that is, Sir Robert Knollys, who died in August, not February. It also claims that the manuscript was written in Winchester in 1425, although there is no other evidence for that specific attribution.
The coat of arms at the bottom of f. 28v, a full-page Burial illustration that precedes the Office of the Dead, impales a version of the Knollys arms (azure, a cross recercellee and voided, or) with the Baron family arms. [n.b. see Peter Kidd’s comments below for a link to another manuscript with these arms, which seem to have been impaled upon the marriage of Thomas’ daughter Joan Knollys to William Baron]
The manuscript has a fairly well-established provenance leading from England to Kentucky. An early owner named Richard Gregory added his signature to the lower margin of the first leaf. The manuscript was later owned by an unidentified member of the Dupont family, who gave it to Reverend William Bumstead. Joseph Clark Graves purchased the manuscript from Bumstead and donated it to Transylvania University in 1959.
But this manuscript’s story doesn’t end with its Kentucky home. In 2005, the manuscript was stolen along with three other Special Collections books by four students who assaulted the librarian with a stun gun after posing as representatives of a book collector. They were apprehended and the books recovered after they brought them to Christie’s Auction House in New York, again posing as representatives of a collector, to be appraised. All four were convicted and served time in Federal prison.