Monthly Archives: November 2014

Manuscript Road Trip: The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies

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 head north out of Baltimore on I-95, we’ll cross the Delaware River and head into Wilmington, where there are manuscripts to be found at the University of Delaware.

The pre-1600 manuscripts at the University are part of a collection with the shelfmark “MSS 095.” There’s a list of the relevant records here and some highlights are described here. Of particular interest to me is a relatively recent acquisition, U. Delaware MSS 095 no. 31, a Book of Hours for the use of Noyon. There aren’t any images on the Special Collections website, but there are a few on this blogpost written by a Special Collections staff member, as well as a little information about the manuscript’s history. But I’d like to know more…how did it get to Delaware, and what can be gleaned about its history before that?

To answer that question, I’ll do what I always do when I have a provenance problem to solve: hop on the virtual superhighway and head to Philadelphia to visit the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.

working map

In addition to being an actual institute in an actual library with actual staff organizing actual symposia and caring for actual (beautifully digitized) manuscripts, the Schoenberg Institute is responsible for some significant and important data curation, as it is the home of the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts. This is an extraordinary resource that has changed the field of provenance research, and we have collector and Big Data visionary Lawrence J. Schoenberg (1932-2014) to thank for it.

Barbara Brizdle and Lawrence J. Schoenberg

Barbara Brizdle and Lawrence J. Schoenberg

Larry Schoenberg (pictured here with his wife Barbara Brizdle) was a passionate collector of books and manuscripts, and the greater part of his collection now belongs to the University of Pennsylvania, part of the Institute that bears his name.  I was fortunate enough to work for Larry back in the 1990s, and throughout that period I came to appreciate him as a savvy collector, an appreciative connoisseur, and a kind and generous man whose enthusiasm was contagious and whose energy was boundless. He passed away earlier this year and will be greatly missed.

As a collector and an innovative businessman (he started out at IBM in the late 1950s), Larry understood both the intellectual importance and financial value of provenance, of the history of the books and manuscripts he owned. In the late 1990s, he acquired a spreadsheet-based dataset of manuscript sales to help with his own research into his collection. With the help of his wife Barbara and a group of student assistants, he began to add to the data by manually entering information, first from his personal collection of auction catalogues and later by systematically combing through the catalogue collections at the Grolier Club in New York or dealers such as Bernard Quaritch in London, eventually turning it into an Access database before finding it a permanent home online at the University of Pennsylvania. There, the database has continued to grow under the curatorship of a creative and brilliant staff who are constantly working on improving the data structure and interface.

One of my favorites, a ninth-century manuscript of Boethius (LJS 101, f. 1v)

One of my favorite Schoenberg manuscripts, a ninth-century Boethius (LJS 101, f. 1v)

Today, the Schoenberg Database is a growing dataset of (as of this writing) 221,408 records pertaining to pre-1600 manuscripts. Each record represents an “appearance” of a particular manuscript, by which I mean a transaction, a catalogue description, or an exhibit. This means that a particular manuscript might have multiple Schoenberg Database records associated with it. If it has appeared at auction or sale several times, each of those transactions might have its own record. I say “might” because even though the database is the largest of its kind, it is still growing as new and legacy catalogues are added. As users and staff discover that particular records represent the same manuscript (at two different sales, for example), those records are linked so that users can begin to track manuscript movements through space and time.

I’ll use the Delaware Book of Hours to show how this works.

From the University’s record, we know several things about the manuscript already:

Book of hours : Use of Noyon

Date: circa 1500

Extent: 130 leaves

Dimensions: 175 x 120 (95 x 60) mm

Lines per page: 20

This is a good amount of information to work with. Using the Advanced Search feature in the Schoenberg Database, we can easily search for “Book of Hours” in the title with a limit of 130 leaves. This results in a list of 111 records. Now we have to narrow it down further to see if we can find any records that pertain to the Delaware manuscript. Clicking on “Liturgical Use” in the limiter options along the right side of the page brings up a browse list of identified Use for those 111 records. Two are for the Use of Noyon:

Title: Book Of Hours
Folios: 130
Date: 1500
Place: France, Amiens?
Primary Seller: Sotheby’s
Catalogue: Western manuscripts and miniatures L06241 – 2006/12/05
Lot #: 45
Provenance: Le Camus; Paque

Duplicates: 29454

Title: Book Of Hours
Folios: 130
Date: 1450
Place: France, northern, Amiens
Primary Seller: Pirages
Catalogue: Catalogue 60 – 2011
Lot #: 444
Provenance: Cinot, Jeanne; Camuce(?), Madelaine; Paque, Jean Marie, of Boulogne
Both of these are sales records, one from Sotheby’s in 2006, the other from an Oregon dealer, Phillip Pirages, in 2011. The Sotheby’s sale includes a link to an earlier sale of the same manuscript, record 29454 (Swann Galleries, 1987). Additional details in the Sotheby’s and Swann records confirm that these were indeed sales of the Delaware manuscript (note the binding signed by Hans Asper, for example, and the early annotations). But what about the Pirages sale? Record 192622 appears to be the same manuscript as well, but it hasn’t been linked to the Sotheby’s and Swann records. In addition, a researcher interested in, say, Books of Hours created for the Use of Noyon would have no way of knowing that these records refer to a manuscript that currently belongs to the University of Delaware. But once I email the Schoenberg Database staff with this discovery, they will link the transactions and add the U. Delaware shelfmark to the Provenance fields of all three linked records.
Annunciation (Amiens, ca. 1500) (U. Delaware, Special Collections, MSS 095 no. 31)

Annunciation (Amiens, ca. 1500) (U. Delaware, Special Collections, MSS 095 no. 31)

Now that we know that the manuscript was sold by Sotheby’s on 5 December 2006 (lot 45), we can go to the Sotheby’s website and retrieve their description, which happily includes a few images. In addition, the Sotheby’s description gives details about the manuscript’s origin and later provenance. If we combine that information with what we’ve learned from the Schoenberg Database, we can now tell a fairly complete story of this manuscript’s journey from Picardy to Delaware. The first few owners were women:

1) Created around 1500 for the Use of Noyon, possibly in Amiens (Sotheby’s attributes the miniatures to Amiens based on the style), with an early inscription in rhymed French naming one Jeanne, daughter of Jean Cinot, as the owner and asking that the book be returned if lost, “Car sans heures ne puys dien prier” (“Without these hours she cannot say her prayers”);
2) Inscriptions of “Madelaine Camuce” dated 1615 and 1657 on the flyleaves;
3) Inscription of “Jean Marie Paque” of Boulogne on a flyleaf, from the 17th or 18th century;
4) Rebound by Hans Asper (Geneva, Switzerland) in the nineteenth century;
4) Sold by Swann Galleries (New York), 2 April 1987 (cat. 1432), no. 112;
5) Sold by Sotheby’s London, 5 December 2006, lot 45;
6) Sold by Phillip Pirages (Oregon), 2011 (cat. 60), no. 444;
7) Currently University of Delaware, Special Collections MSS 095 no. 31.
That’s quite a journey.
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Philadelphia Museum of Art

In addition to the Schoenberg database and manuscript collection at Penn, there are several other collections of note in the Philadelphia area, including The Free Library of Philadelphia, the Glencairn Museum, the Rosenbach Museum and Library, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Free Library’s database is easy to use and intuitive to navigate, filled with lots of gorgeous images. A major 2001 exhibition of manuscripts from Philadelphia collections, Leaves of Gold, lives online here. You’ll find numerous images of Philadelphia’s manuscript treasures in the online exhibit gallery. It’s a legacy site, nearly 15 years old, so the images might not be as accessible or high-resolution as one might hope, but the site includes some of the greatest art to be found in the city and its environs.

Glencairn Museum (Bryn Athyn, PA)

Glencairn Museum (Bryn Athyn, PA)

 Next time, we’ll keep heading north to visit the Jersey Shore.


Filed under Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscript Road Trip: The Digital Walters

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 past year, I’ve been using the image at the left – Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus on their road trip to Egypt – as a metaphoric representation of my virtual road trip. The only reason I can do so is because the image has been made available for downloading and use under a Creative Commons license by the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. It might surprise you to learn that the Walters was an early adapter of open access platforms and continues to lead the way in making free, high quality images available online. But before we get to Walters the Digital, we have to start with Walters the Collector.

working map

William T. Walters in his "Picture Gallery," 1884

William T. Walters in his “Picture Gallery,” 1884

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, railway tycoon William Thompson Walters (1819 – 1894) and his son Henry (1848 – 1931) amassed a collection of more than 20,000 art objects from around the world, eventually founding the museum that bears their family name. This from the Walters Art Museum website: “When William died in 1894, he bequeathed his collection to his son. Henry Walters would not only follow in his father’s footsteps in business—investing and managing railroads—but would carry on the family interest in art as well. He greatly expanded the scope of acquisitions, including his astounding purchase of the contents of a palace in Rome that contained over 1,700 pieces. This acquisition added Roman and Etruscan antiquities, early Italian paintings, and Renaissance and Baroque works of art to his holdings. Although he spent little time in his native city, Henry continued the work his father had begun by opening his collection to the public. In 1900, he bought three houses on Charles Street adjoining a property he already owned. Henry had the site transformed into a palazzo-like building, which opened to the public in 1909. He died in 1931, bequeathing the building and its contents to the mayor and city council of Baltimore ‘for the benefit of the public.’ The Walters Art Gallery, now the Walters Art Museum, opened its doors for the first time as a public institution on November 3, 1934.”

Along the way, the Walters men acquired a nearly-unparalleled collection of several hundred illuminated manuscripts, a collection that has grown through strategic acquisitions over the years, each one a masterpiece of its kind. Like his contemporary Pierpont Morgan, whose collection in New York is equally legendary, Walters had a taste for the finer things. The manuscript collection is full of extraordinary art. In looking through the digitized images, I found it nearly impossible to choose which examples to share with you, so I am including just a few of my personal favorites, one per century.

St. Matthew writing his Gospel (WAG W.17, ff. 8v/9) (ca. 1100)

St. Matthew writing his Gospel (WAM W.17, ff. 8v/9) (ca. 1100)

First up, a late eleventh/early twelfth-century Gospel book (W.17), possibly from northern Spain or France. St. Matthew is hard at work writing his Gospel, as an angel (his attribute) descends from the heavenly aperture above with a modelbook for him to copy. On the right, the rubric and first verse of the Gospel of St. Matthew, with the letters [Li] in “Liber” formed by the interlaced initials at the left. Two soldiers in armor inhabit the initial [L], one standing on the shoulders of the other to watch the Evangelist at work.

The Daughter of Babylon (WAG W.29, f. 43v) (Lambach, Austria, s. XII 3/4)

The Daughter of Babylon (WAM W.29, f. 43v) (Lambach, Austria, s. XII 3/4)

Here’s one I simply couldn’t let pass by. Manuscript W.29 records three treatises by Honorius of Autun and was illustrated by Gottschalk of Lambach, the scribe/artist who was the subject of my first book. Gottschalk didn’t write this one, but his illustrative work in W.29 is remarkable. Above, illustrating Honorius’ Commentary on the Song of Songs, the Daughter of Babylon rides beneath a blazing sun, escorted by Martyrs, Apostles, and Philosophers, her steeds helpfully identified below her footrest as “cameli.” The Daughter of Babylon represents the second of Honorius’ Four Epochs of the allegorical marriage described in the Song of Songs, the epoch “sub lege,” or “beneath the law.” The style is typical of Gottschalk, with his red and black penwork, distinctive long graceful fingers, and carefully articulated facial features.


Christ and King David within the letter [B] (WAM W.151, f. 250v) (Bologna, early 13th c.)

 This initial comes from the early thirteenth-century Bolognese glory known as the Bentivoglio Bible, also known as manuscript W.151. Within the initial [B] of “Beatus vir” (the beginning of Psalm 1) we find Christ in the upper compartment holding an open book in his left hand, his right raised in blessing. King David – the supposed author of the Psalms – inhabits the lower compartment, strumming his harp.


St. Peter enthroned (WAM W.153, f. 5v)

As we make our way through the fourteenth century, things really start to get lush and golden. Here’s St. Peter enthroned (holding the key to Heaven in his left hand, blessing with his right) within the letter [N], in a late fourteenth-century antiphonal. In the lower register, an angel leads him from a Roman prison. The antiphonal was made for the use of the Chapel of Saint Nicholas of Bari in the church of St. Peter Major in Florence; hence, it is illustrated with eight scenes from the life of St. Peter, including his inverted crucifixion, below, within the letter [H].

St. Peter crucified (WAM W.153, f. 19v)

St. Peter crucified (WAM W.153, f. 19v)

The images above were all taken from manuscripts designed to be used by monks or in a church setting. Beginning in the late fourteenth century, the rise of private devotion necessitated the creation of private prayerbooks, resulting in a proliferation of Books of Hours in the fifteenth century such as the manuscript illustrated below. This Book of Hours was written for the use of Troyes around the year 1470 and has the distinction of having once been owned by Wilfred Voynich, for whom the infamous Voynich Manuscript was named (Google it and you will quickly enter a dark and scary corner of the internet…but it’s worth the trip!). At left, an illustration of the  Annunciation accompanies Matins for the Hours of the Virgin, the central text of a Book of Hours. The marginal miniatures illustrate other scenes from the life of the Virgin (clockwise from the upper right): being taught to read by her mother, St. Anne; being presented in the Temple; playing a stringed instrument; at prayer in a church; greeting the also-pregnant St. Elizabeth, mother of John the Baptist. At right, St. Luke writes his Gospel, a quill in his right hand and a scraping implement in his left, copying from a model on a bookstand before him. His attribute, a bull, crouches at his feet, and a number of completed manuscripts are visible in the storage compartment below his writing desk. The two statues in the niches above, a man and a woman, may represent the initial commissioners of the manuscript.

The Annunciation with Scenes from the Life of the Virgin (WAM W.249, f. 37) (Troyes, ca. 1470)

The Annunciation with Scenes from the Life of the Virgin (WAM W.249, f. 37) (Troyes, ca. 1470)

St. Luke writing his Gospel (WAM W.249, f. 19) (Troyes, ca. 1470)

St. Luke writing his Gospel (WAM W.249, f. 19) (Troyes, ca. 1470)

Finally, we reach the apex of manuscript illumination in the early sixteenth century. Although I am somewhat partial to the penwork and charm of twelfth-century monastic manuscripts, these noble commissions of the early 1500s really take my breath away:

The Annunciation (WAM W.449, f. 32v) (Tours?, ca. 1524, attr. Jean de Mauléon)

The Annunciation (WAM W.449, f. 32v) (Tours?, ca. 1524, attr. Jean de Mauléon)

The Flight into Egypt (WAM W.452, f. 79v) (Tours?, ca. 1520, attr. Jean Pichore)

The Flight into Egypt (WAM W.452, f. 79v) (Tours?, ca. 1520, attr. Jean Pichore)


As users and admirers of medieval manuscripts, we have to step back and appreciate how extraordinary the digital collection at the Walters truly is. The Walters has always been a leader in cataloguing and access to medieval manuscripts: the multi-volume Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery authored by former curator Lilian M. C. Randall remains the gold standard in its breadth, depth, and attention to detail. Her successor, former curator William Noel, is perhaps best known for his work with the Archimedes Palimpsest (if you want a great introduction to the project and the importance of Open Access data, check out Will’s 2012 TED Talk). He applied the Open Access model used in that project to the Walters collection to establish a digital presence that includes not only the Walters website but a Flickr site as well, and, although he has since left to become the founding Director of the Kislak Center for Special Collections at the University of Pennsylvania, the Walters Art Museum remains committed to that model.

True Open Access is about a lot more than simply being able to freely download high-resolution un-watermarked JPGs, TIFFs, or PDFs. The Digital Walters provides several tiers of access points to these manuscripts: you can download the entire manuscript as a PDF; you can page through it online using a page-turner interface; you can download individual images; and, for those of you who really love your data raw, you can get behind the scenes at the Digital Walters, strip away the pretty interface, and interact with the data in a folder-file structure, pure and simple. Here, in this “behind-the-scenes” space, you can access the multiple layers that make up each image and dataset, see the data in its purist form, and download the raw data to do with as you please. This is the real thing. You might never have a good reason to interact with data this raw, but the fact that it’s there for the taking is unique and extraordinary.

Will Noel was honored last year by the White House as a “Champion of Change” for his work in advocating for open data, work he continues to pursue at what will be our next stop, the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.



Filed under Medieval Manuscripts, Uncategorized

Manuscript Road Trip: The Nation’s Capital

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

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

Welcome to Washington, DC, home to cherry blossoms, the Lincoln Memorial, the White House, the Smithsonian Institution, the U.S. Congress, and more than 7,000 pre-1600 European manuscripts in sixteen collections. At only ten square miles, DC has without question the highest density of manuscripts-per-square-mile of any city in the U.S. Today, we’ll join the tourists and take a tour of DC that starts in Georgetown and takes us across the Mall before we head up to Northeast DC on our way out of town.

Just a few of the place where you'll find medieval manuscripts in the District of Columbia.

Just a few of the place where you’ll find medieval manuscripts in the District of Columbia.

Dumbarton Oaks (photo by John Weiss)

Dumbarton Oaks (photo by John Weiss)

Dumbarton Oaks, an institute for Byzantine Studies affiliated with Harvard University and set among exquisite gardens at the north end of Georgetown, owns several important and early Byzantine manuscripts. Some have been digitized and can be found in Harvard’s HOLLIS catalogue by searching ‘author:”Dumbarton Oaks, owner”‘. There you’ll find links to several digitized Byzantine manuscripts, including an eleventh-century lectionary and a Psalter from the same era.working mapNext we’ll head south on Wisconsin Ave. towards the river to reach Georgetown University. Georgetown’s manuscript collection includes more than a dozen codices, several of which have been digitized. Among those available online is a lovely early fifteenth-century French Book of Hours. The manuscript is heavily illustrated, with four Evangelist portraits, a Marian cycle, a handsome portrait of King David at prayer (below) and a complete Passion cycle. It is said to be for the Use of Amiens, but as the Hours of the Virgin do not support that localization (for those of you who care about such things, the Prime antiphon is Quando natus, the Prime chapter is Ab initio et ante, the None antiphon is Pulchra es, and the None chapter is Sicut cynamomum; this combination doesn’t appear in Madan or in Erik Drigsdahl’s more detailed list), the determination of Use was probably based on the calendar.

King David at Prayer (Penitential Psalms, Georgetown Univ. MS 11, p. 179)

King David at Prayer (Penitential Psalms, Georgetown Univ. MS 11, p. 179)

The Litany, however, suggests Langres, in Burgundy. The manuscript includes a lengthy and unusually formatted Litany, with two different texts given side-by-side in parallel columns: the standard litany of Saints in the right-hand column and the litanic poem “Deus unitas superna” in the left. The longer-than-usual litany includes St. Altigianus and several other saints of special siginificance in Burgundy.

If the weather’s nice, we can walk along the Mall all the way from the Lincoln Memorial past the Washington Monument towards the Capitol. The last museum on the left is the National Gallery of Art, our next stop.


By searching the National Gallery’s collections database for the keyword “vellum” and then limiting the results with the date range “before 1300” – 1500, I found records for 113 0bjects, 78 of which have been digitized, mostly single leaves and cuttings. One of the highlights has to be the miniature of St. Christopher carrying the Christ-child across a river (below left), removed from an early fifteenth-century Book of Hours. The miniature has been recently attributed to the Limbourg Brothers, the early fifteenth-century master painters responsible for some of the most well-known examples of manuscript illumination, the early miniatures in the “Très Riches Heures” of Duke Jean de Berry (1340 – 1416). The miniature, with its distinctive fantastical, craggy landscape and rich gradiated sky, compares favorably to, for example, the miniature at right, Angels carrying the body St. Katherine to Mt. Sinai, from another manuscript commissioned from the Limbourgs by the Duke de Berry, the “Belles Heures” belonging to The Cloisters in New York.

Limbourg Brothers, Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, Netherlandish, active 1406 - 1416, c. 1409, miniature on vellum, Rosenwald Collection

Limbourg Brothers, Saint Christopher Carrying the Christ Child, Netherlandish, active 1406 – 1416, c. 1409, miniature on vellum, Rosenwald Collection

Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duc of Berry, 1405–1408/9 Herman, Paul, and Jean Limbourg (Franco-Netherlandish, active in France, by 1399–1416). French; Made in Paris. Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum 9 3/8 x 6 5/8 in. (23.8 x 16.8 cm). The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.1)

Belles Heures of Jean of France, Duc of Berry, 1405–1408/9
Herman, Paul, and Jean Limbourg (Franco-Netherlandish, active in France, by 1399–1416). French; Made in Paris. Ink, tempera, and gold leaf on vellum
9 3/8 x 6 5/8 in. (23.8 x 16.8 cm). The Cloisters Collection, 1954 (54.1.1)

On the other side of the Mall is the Freer Gallery of Art. There are several early Byzantine manuscripts in the Gallery’s Biblical Manuscript Collection, including two extremely early and important Greek Gospel fragments from the 4th and 5th centuries.

This next stop is for those of you who love your Shakespeare. The Folger Shakespeare Library owns the largest collection of Shakespearean material in the world, but the library also holds many other types of material, including several manuscripts that pre-date the Bard. You can find some of these by searching their Luna digital database for “manuscripts — 15th century” or “manuscripts — 16th century.” One of the most important of these early codices is manuscript V.a.354, a codex known as The Macro Manuscript that contains several examples of medieval drama. The manuscript includes a well-known drawing of a theater-in-the-round with a castle tower in the center, illustrating the setting of the fifteenth-century English morality play “The Castle of Perseverance.” On the ditch encircling the castle are written instructions for the players and the audience, for example, that the viewers are not to cross the ditch during the performance.

The Castle of Perseverance (Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V.a.354)

The Castle of Perseverance (Folger Shakespeare Library, MS V.a.354)

In addition to early printed editions of Shakespeare’s works, the Folger also has several documents that add to our knowledge of his life, such as a document from London’s Court of Common Pleas recording the settlement of a 1602 disagreement between Shakespeare and one Hercules Underhill, and the Deed of Sale for his purchase of the Blackfriar’s Gatehouse in 1613.

Next up, the Library of Congress. Early manuscripts can be found in the LC Map Collection, Law Library, and Music Collection, but the vast majority belong to the Rare Book and Special Collections Division. This from their website:

“The Rare Book and Special Collections Division traces its beginnings to Thomas Jefferson’s wish to create a library for statesmen and for the people of the new nation. After the British burned the Capitol and its library in 1814, Jefferson offered to sell his book collection to Congress. Congress appropriated money for the purchase, and Jefferson’s collection served as the foundation for the new Library of Congress in 1815. Jefferson’s books–in several languages and covering a great variety of subjects–today form the nucleus of the division.”

Job on the Dungheap (The Office of the Dead) (Library of Congress, RBSC Division, Rosenwald MS 10, ff. 79v/80r). Note the date "1524" hanging from the top of the image.

Job on the Dungheap (The Office of the Dead) (Library of Congress, RBSC Division, Rosenwald MS 10, ff. 79v/80r). Note the date “1524” hanging from the top of the image.

Nine manuscripts from the Library’s Rosenwald Collection are online here, including this stunning Book of Hours dated 1524 (Rosenwald MS 10). In addition to the “wow” factor of the illumination, the manuscript has a lengthy and well-established provenance, with owners including (among others): Parisian printer and graphic designer Geoffroy Tory (approx. 1480 – 1533); Guillaume-François de Bure (1731 – 1782); William Beckford (1760 – 1844); François Gustave Adolphe Guyot de Villeneuve (1825 – 1898); Robert Hoe (1839 – 1909); Cortlandt F. Bishop (1870 – 1935) and Lessing J. Rosenwald (1891 – 1979). The last three names, in particular, are well-known to manuscript studies, especially in the United States. The 1911 Anderson sale of the Hoe collection brought many important manuscripts into the market; the same firm sold Cortlandt Field Bishop’s collection in 1938/9, another important collection of more than 65 manuscripts that is recorded in both the Census and the Supplement (this manuscript is Bishop No. 9, Census II:1656); and Lessing J. Rosenwald was yet another great collector whose donations to the Library of Congress and to the National Gallery comprise some of the most important early manuscripts in the District. G-F de Bure, who owned the manuscript in the mid-eighteenth century, included it in a 1763 catalogue titled Bibliographie Instructive (p. 197-8, no. 219), where he described it as “un des plus beaux livres de ce genre.” Go through it page by page and you will certainly agree.

Finally, I want to give a shout-out to the technical services team at The Catholic University of America, because their MARC cataloguers have done exactly what needs to be done to make MARC records for pre-1600 manuscripts discoverable in a local OPAC; by simply establishing and consistently using the subject heading “Manuscripts, Latin (Medieval and modern)–Washington (D.C.)” as a local 650 subject field (for those of you who are MARC-literate), they have made it incredibly easy for users to filter their manuscript records. I cannot recommend this strategy vehemently enough; without establishing such a local subject heading, it may be extremely difficult for your end-users to find the records, no matter how carefully you’ve formatted your metadata. And what’s the point of a record if no one can find it? 

Next time, we’ll visit one of the birthplaces of open-access data. See you in Maryland!

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Filed under Medieval Manuscripts