Monthly Archives: February 2015

Manuscript Road Trip: The Boston Public Library

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, after eighteen months, forty-nine posts, and forty-eight states, the Manuscript Road Trip goes home. Welcome to Boston!

I’ve lived just west of Boston for fifteen years, much of that time spent working as a consultant cataloguing collections of medieval manuscripts in the area. Ironically, some of the collections I know so well are not particularly well-known outside New England. This will change in the fall of 2016 with the opening of “Pages from the Past,” a major exhibition of several hundred manuscripts from more than a dozen Boston-area collections, an exhibit I have the great privilege of co-curating with Jeffrey Hamburger, William Stoneman, Nancy Netzer, and Anne-Marie Eze. As the exhibit is still eighteen months away, I’m going to spend the next few weeks writing about collections in the Boston area.working mapLet’s start with one of the great treasures of the City of Boston: The Boston Public Library.Exterior

CourtyardThe Boston Public Library, founded in 1854, was the first municipal “Free Library” in the United States. In the 1880s, architect Charles McKim was commissioned to design a worthy home for the Library, and the result is an architectural gem.interior With its palazzo-style courtyard and famed murals by John Singer Sargent, the Central Branch at Copley Square is one of the premier examples of Renaissance-revival Beaux Arts design. Lest the grand and imposing edifice intimidate the public it was designed to serve, the simple phrase “FREE TO ALL” in granite relief above the arched doorways serves as a constant reminder of the Library’s mission and mandate.

Free to All

That mission includes the stewardship of several extremely important special collections, primarily Americana (John Adams’ personal library, for example, as well as early American and Civil War collections and the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense archive). Unbeknownst to most library patrons, the Boston Public Library is also home to several hundred medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.

BPL MS f. Med. 6, f. 103 (Easter Sunday, with an historiated initial lacking)

One of the BPL’s first medieval acquisitions,  MS f. Med. 5 (f. 103, Easter Sunday, with an historiated initial lacking)

In 1878, the Boston Public Library bought its first medieval manuscripts, two volumes of a multi-volume set of Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla super totam bibliam written in “Paradisus” abbey, Germany (poss. Düren) in 1471. The two manuscripts preserve Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (MS f. Med. 3), and the Twelve Minor Prophets (MS f. Med. 4); two other volumes of the set are Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Lat. 231 (which contains the Book of Wisom and is consecutive with f. Med. 3) and Philadelphia, Free Library, Lewis E 43 (Pauline Epistles). Another early acquisition was MS f. Med. 5, a mid-fourteenth-century Missal from Italy given to the BPL by Dr. W. N. Bullard in 1896.

It was not until 1900, however, when Librarian James Lyman Whitney entered into a long-standing relationship with British bibliophile Sydney Cockerell, that the collection began to truly take shape.  William Stoneman, Curator of Manuscripts at Harvard University’s Houghton Library, traces the early roots of the BPL’s manuscript collection to the 1849 sale of 702 manuscripts from the library of French collector Joseph Barrois (1785? – 1855) to the Fourth Earl of Ashburnham (1797 – 1878), described by Seymour de Ricci as “one of the great collectors of the nineteenth century” (Stoneman, p. 350).

Notes made by Sydney Cockerell inside the front cover of BPL MS q. Med. 6, a late thirteenth-century Psalter

Notes made by Sydney Cockerell inside the front cover of BPL MS q. Med. 6, a late thirteenth-century Psalter

It may seem a distant connection, but when the Barrois-Ashburnham collection was sold at Sotheby’s on 10 June 1901, Sydney Cockerell bought twenty-one manuscripts on behalf of the Boston Public Library. He had been authorized to do so the previous year by the Librarian and Trustees, who granted him free reign to spend the significant sum of $1000 “for the purchase of illuminated manuscripts.” (see W. P. Stoneman, “‘Variously Employed’: The Pre-Fitzwilliam Career of Sydney Carlyle Cockerell” in S. Panayotova, ed., Art, Academia and the Trade: Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867 – 1962) (Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 2010), pp. 345-361, at pp. 350-351).

St. Augustine, De civitate dei (BPL MS f. Med. 10, f. 1v) (photo by James Marrow)

St. Augustine, De civitate dei (BPL MS f. Med. 10, f. 1v) (photo by James Marrow)

Cockerell’s knowledge of the art market made him the perfect agent for the Library, and his choices were savvy. Broadly interpreting the Trustees’ instruction to purchase “illuminated manuscripts,” Cockerell acquired a variety of codices at the Ashburnham sale, for the most part decorated but unillustrated, focusing on multiple genres, scripts, and time periods rather than bidding on pricier (and therefore fewer) books that might have been more sumptuous. There were notable exceptions, of course. Over the course of their relationship, Cockerell acquired twenty-six manuscripts for the Boston Public Library, some of which were indeed quite beautifully illuminated. He facilitated the acquisition of one of BPL’s finest books, a copy of St. Augustine’s De civitate dei written in Utrecht in 1466 and illuminated by the eponymous “Master of the Boston City of God,” since identified as Antonis Rogiersz uten Broec (BPL MS f. Med. 10). Over the last century, the collection has been augmented by gifts, bequests, and purchases and is now one of the largest municipal manuscript collections in the country.

Individual manuscripts in the collection have been studied over the years, and some are well-known to scholarship. Until recently, however, there was no catalogue of BPL manuscripts other than the incomplete listing in the de Ricci Census and its Supplement. I recently spent two years writing a comprehensive catalogue of the collection, and MARC records based on my work are currently in development that will include links to my formal descriptions. A large-scale digitization project is also underway, although some of the manuscripts had been previously digitized and are available online through the Internet Archive:

BPL q. Med. 20 (Marcus Manilius, Astronomica, Italy (Ferrara), 1461)

BPL pf. Med. 97, f 1 (oversize Ferial Psalter, Piacenza, ca. 1495). This massive choirbook was originally part of a set of fourteen giant manuscripts produced for the Cathedral of Piacenza.

BPL pf. Med. 97, f 1 (oversize Ferial Psalter, Piacenza, ca. 1495). This massive choirbook was originally part of a set of fourteen giant manuscripts produced for the Abbey of St. Sixtus in Piacenza.

BPL f. Med. 73 (Johannes Andreae, Hieronymianus, Netherlands (Utrecht), ca. 1470)

BPL f. Med. 91 (Guillaume de Tignonville, Dits des philosophes, France, ca. 1420)

BPL f. Med. 101 (Christine de Pizan, Le livre des trois vertus, France, ca. 1450)

BPL f. Med. 125 (Gregorio Dati, La Sfera, Italy (Pesaro), 1484)

BPL q. Med. 129 ([Hours of the Passion, in verse], Flanders, ca. 1465-1475)

BPL f. Med. 133 (Das Leiden unserz Herren Jhesu Christi, Germany, ca. 1460)

Here are a few other highlights of the collection.

BPL MS f. Med. 95, f. 73v (Detail)

BPL MS f. Med. 95, f. 73v (Detail)

MS f. Med. 95 is a homiliary thought to have been written in the early part of the tenth century at the Benedictine abbey of St. Allyre in Clermont, France. It may be the earliest complete codex in New England (for those who care about such things, this was Phillipps Manuscript 13842).

MS f. Med. 84 is a sumptuous mid-thirteenth-century Psalter from Flanders that begins with a calendar, seven full-page miniatures (a standard cycle illustrating the life of Christ), and a full-page historiated initial. Each page of the calendar includes a charming framed illustration of the Labor of the Month, for example Janus feasting in January and a peasant slaughtering a pig in December.

Janus Feasting (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 1)

Janus Feasting (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 1)

Slaughtering a Pig (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 6v)

Slaughtering a Pig (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 6v)

The full-page miniatures are beautifully executed and heavily gilt:

The Adoration of the Magi (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 8v)

The Adoration of the Magi (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 8v)

King David playing the harp (above) and defeating Goliath (below), inhabiting the letter B (for "Beatus vir," the beginning of Psalm 1) (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 14v)

King David playing the harp (above) and defeating Goliath (below), inhabiting the letter B (for “Beatus vir,” the beginning of Psalm 1) (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 14v)

Another stunner is MS q. Med. 81, known as “The Québriac Hours” for the family that owned it for some time. The manuscript was written and illustrated in Brittany around the year 1420 and includes two dozen miniatures. The patron of the manuscript, a woman in a green gown and fashionable howve headpiece, makes an appearance in two of them:

Mass of St. Gregory (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 143 r, slightly later addition)

The Mass of St. Gregory (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 143 r, slightly later addition)

The Mass of St. Julian of Le Mans (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 136v)

The Mass of St. Julian of Le Mans (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 136v)

One the later treasures of the collection is a set of fourteen full-page miniatures by the great Simon Bening (1483-1561), taken from a Spanish Rosary Psalter in all likelihood commissioned for Joan I (“the Mad”) of Castile around the year 1525. The miniatures, collectively BPL MS pb. Med. 35, have been published in facsimile.

The Resurrection, Simon Bening (BPL MS pb. Med. 35, f. 10v)

The Resurrection, Simon Bening (BPL MS pb. Med. 35, f. 10v)

I leave you with BPL MS pb. Med. 32, a beautifully illuminated manuscript of the French scroll chronicle I have christened La Chronique Anonyme Universelle, the subject of my forthcoming book. The 34-foot-long scroll was written in eastern France in the 1470s. Nothing is known of its early history until it was offered as lot 626 in the Barrois-Ashburnham sale of 1901, when it was acquired for the Library by Sydney Cockerell (Ashburnham actually owned two copies of the Chronique; the second, lot 627, is currently in private hands). The Chronique tells the story of mankind from Creation to the Middle Ages, illustrated by fifty-eight miniatures. Originally, the BPL copy would have concluded during the reign of the French King Louis XI, but it is lacking several sheets and ends imperfectly at Pope Urban VI (d. 1378), Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (r. 1014 – 1024 C.E.), the French King Philip IV (Philip the Fair) (r. 1285 – 1314 C.E.), the English King Henry III (r. 1216-1272) and Godfrey of Bouillon.

La Chronique Anonyme Universelle (BPL MS pb. Med. 32)

La Chronique Anonyme Universelle (BPL MS pb. Med. 32)

The text is formatted in parallel columns, beginning with Biblical and ancient history before eventually settling into a four-column format recording a Papal chronicle, the history of the Roman and Holy Roman empires, and the development of the kingdoms of France and England, with a brief detour into the Crusades. The intercolumnar spaces are filled with detailed and complex genealogical diagrams that trace the direct descent of the royal houses of Europe from Adam by way of Aeneas of Troy. En route from Genesis to medieval Europe, the narrative stops to tell the tales of such luminaries as Queen Esther, King Lear, King Arthur, and Joan of Arc (although the section that would have included The Maid of Orléans is lacking in this copy). The BPL scroll is among the finest of the 28 known copies and was likely produced for French nobility. The earliest manuscript of the Chronique was compiled around 1415, in the context of the Hundred Years War. This French world chronicle is therefore inherently Francophilic at the expense of the English, serving to re-enforce its intended audience’s sense of entitlement and inherent nobility while at the same time making the English out to be war-mongering charlatans.

A few details:

Godfrey of Bouillon conquers Jerusalem

Godfrey of Bouillon conquers Jerusalem

The Hewing of Nebuchadnezzar

The Hewing of Nebuchadnezzar

The Baptism of Clovis

The Baptism of Clovis

Brut slays the Giants

Brut slays the Giants

The scroll is one of the highlights of the collection, and for good reason. It appears that when the Trustees of the Boston Public Library charged Sydney Cockerell with buying “illuminated manuscripts,” he occasionally took them at their word.

Next time, we will visit one of my favorite Boston sites, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Manuscript Road Trip: The Biggest Little State in the Union

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

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

There are several important things to know about Rhode Island besides the fact that it is the smallest state in the union. No. 1, it is not an island. No. 2, it was founded by Roger Williams in 1636 on the principle of religious freedom for all. It also happens to be home to some very interesting medieval manuscripts tucked away in some very surprising places.

working map

We begin in Newport, a seaside enclave that was once the summer playground of America’s wealthiest elite. Families such as the Vanderbilts constructed palatial mansions in the late nineteenth century, most of which are now open to the public through The Preservation Society of Newport County. If you find yourself in New England, Newport and its Mansions are well worth a visit.

The Breakers, summer home of the Vanderbilts

The Breakers, summer home of the Vanderbilts

While in Newport, be sure to visit the  Redwood Museum and Athenaeum, where you will find a lovely mid-15th-century Book of Hours from Belgium attributed to the group of artists known collectively as the Masters of the Gold Scrolls. Take a look as these swirly gold backgrounds and you’ll see where the name comes from (with thanks to Peter Kidd for the images):

The Last Judgement (Redwood Athenaeum, Wilson Hours, f. 101r)

The Last Judgement (Redwood Athenaeum, Wilson Hours, f. 101r)

Funeral Service (Redwood Athenaeum, Wilson Hours, f. 125r)

Funeral Service (Redwood Athenaeum, Wilson Hours, f. 125r)

 

For more on this manuscript, see S. Gwara, “Medieval Manuscripts from Newport, R.I.” in Manuscripts LXIV (2012), pp. 5-13.

Our last stop in Newport is St. George’s School, a small boarding school that happens to own a stunning and heavily illustrated late fifteenth-century Book of Hours. The calendar suggests Use of Lyon (calendar notices of St. Photinus (2 June), Bonitus (23 June), and Elpidius (2 September), for example), and the manuscript may have been produced in that region of France. An inscription on the first flyleaf records that it was purchased by Charles, Count of Ambois, in 1808; he was in exile in London at the time but was called back to France in 1824 to take the throne as King Charles X.  The codex later belonged to the famed collector Ambroise Firmin-Didot (1790-1876), his sale by Pawlowski & Paul, 11 June 1883, lot 21. The manuscript was given to St. George’s by an alumnus named Boies Penrose II, evidenced by his attached bookplate and undated donation inscription. Penrose’s father, Boies Penrose Sr., was himself a collector of note, although this manuscript is not among his collection as described in the Census (II:1995-1999) or the Supplement (pp. 436-441). Once again, I thank Peter Kidd for these images:

King David handing marching orders to Uriah (Penitential Psalms, Penrose Hours, St. George's School)

King David giving Uriah his marching orders (Penitential Psalms, Penrose Hours, St. George’s School)

The Raising of Lazarus (note the anachronistic illustration of an indoor crypt as opposed to an outdoor sarcophagus) (Office of the Dead, Penrose Hours, St. George's School)

The Raising of Lazarus (note the anachronistic illustration of an indoor crypt as opposed to an outdoor sarcophagus) (Office of the Dead, Penrose Hours, St. George’s School)

We have a few stops to make in the state capital of Providence. There are very few public municipal collections in the U.S. that house pre-1600 manuscripts, but the Providence Public Library is one of them.  Recently, the manuscripts at the Public Library were made available through Digital Scriptorium. In addition to a few Ege leaves, the collection includes a codex that is extremely rare, one of only five of its kind: Wetmore MS 1. This late fifteenth-century Bible was written in Germany using a rebus-like system of mnemonic symbols and images. This is a fascinating manuscript, worthy of significant study, with mysterious iconographic treatments and delightful miniatures throughout. It’s like a medieval comic book.

Genesis (Providence Public Library, Wetmore MS 1, ff. 7v/8)

Genesis (Providence Public Library, Wetmore MS 1, ff. 7v/8)

This opening illustrates much of Genesis. The days of Creation can be seen at the top of folio 7v, Noah’s Ark at the center right on the same page, with the dove in the lower left corner.

Psalms (Providence Public Library, Wetmore MS 1, ff. 35v/36)

Psalms (Providence Public Library, Wetmore MS 1, ff. 35v/36)

Each panel of this opening illustrates an entire Psalm, here showing Psalms 11 (Salvum me fac) through 30 (In te domine speravi). It is not always obvious how the illustration relates to the Psalm. In the center of the left-hand page, for example, a hand reaches out holding a bag of money. This is presumably a man lending money to the poor without interest, as exemplified in Psalm 15. In the lower left corner of that page, we see the tent pitched in the Heavens for the sun, from Psalm 19. Psalm 20 tells us that “Some trust in chariots and some in horses,” as illustrated in the lower central panel of the lefthand page.

According to Susanne Rischpler in Biblia Sacra figuris expressa: Mnemotechnische Bilderbibln des 15. Jahrhunderts (Wiesbaden 2001), there are only five known medieval manuscripts that present the Bible in this way (this manuscript is described on pp. 187-190). This is a rare bird indeed.

The manuscript has a long and fascinating history. It was owned in the early seventeenth century by Henry, Prince of Wales (1594 – 1612) (son of King James I), supposedly given to him by his sister, Elizabeth of Bohemia (1596-1662). Later, the manuscript was owned by Henry Thomas Watson (1720-79). From Thomas Pennant (1726-98), the manuscript passed by inheritance to Rudolph (1823-92), Earl of Denbigh. It was sold with his collection at Christie’s, 7 July 1938, lot 12 to Stonehill. Soon thereafter, it was acquired by Edith Wetmore (1870-1966), who gave it to the Providence Public Library in 1955. Edith Wetmore, by the way, held her 1889 debutante ball at her family’s Newport “cottage,” Chateau-sur-Mer.

Providence Public Library, Wetmore MS 2, ff. 12v/13

Providence Public Library, Wetmore MS 2, ff. 12v/13

The Public Library also owns a very fine late fifteenth-century Dutch Book of Hours, Wetmore MS 2.

The Rhode Island School of Design owns a very nice cache of Ege leaves as well as a gorgeous early sixteenth-century Book of Hours, and Rhode Island College has two framed leaves of its own.

Beauvais Missal leaf (Rhode Island School of  Design, MS 43.436 recto) (photo by Peter Kidd)

Beauvais Missal leaf (Rhode Island School of Design, MS 43.436 recto) (photo by Peter Kidd)

At Providence College, we’ll find the Leonardus de Utonio manuscript (Erfurt, 1445) that formerly belonged to Father William Bonniwell (Census II:133; I thank Phil Weimerskirch, emeritus Curator of Special Collections at the Providence Public Library, for bringing this manuscript and others to my attention).

Our last stop in Providence is my alma mater, Brown University. Founded in 1764, Brown has had plenty of time to accumulate the largest collection of pre-1600 manuscripts in the state. Most, however, were acquired in the twentieth century, several with the acquisition of the Annmary Brown Memorial Library in 1948, and others through gift or purchase. The very first manuscript I ever studied was Brown’s late fifteenth-century anonymous French translation of Ludolph of Saxony’s Vita Christi.

Brown University, Annmary Brown MS 1450?, -V5

La Vie de Jhesucrist (Brown University, Annmary Brown MS 1450?, -V5)

The John Hay Library at Brown is in the process of digitizing and cataloguing its collection of several dozen early manuscripts. Many of the manuscripts are described in the de Ricci Census and its Supplement, and an increasing number of MARC records can be found in the University’s JOSIAH database using an Advanced Search for “Ms. Latin“, “Ms. Dutch,” “Ms. Spanish,” “Ms. Italian,” “Ms. French,” or “Ms. German” in the “Other Brown Call No.” field.

Many of the pre-1600 manuscripts formerly belonging to the John Carter Brown Library (an independent institution on the Brown campus) were de-accessioned at Sotheby’s on 18 May 1981, although there are still a few early manuscripts in the collection. For details on the de-accessioned manuscripts, see pp. 133-134 of the Directory of Collections in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings.

Brown University's iconic Van Wickle Gates swing open only twice per year: Freshmen walk in on the first day of classes, Seniors process out during Commencement.

Brown University’s iconic Van Wickle Gates swing open twice each year: Freshmen walk in on the first day of classes, Seniors process out during Commencement.

Post Script

Brown University’s online catalogue is named after Josiah S. Carberry, a legendary Brown Professor of Psychoceramics (the study of cracked pots) who has been reliably cancelling lectures since 1929.

The notoriously camera-shy Professor Carberry sitting on the steps of the John Hay Library at Brown University

The notoriously camera-shy Professor Carberry sitting on the steps of the John Hay Library at Brown University

February 29 and every Friday the 13th are “Carberry Days” at Brown. Contributions to the cracked pots that mysteriously appear around campus on those days are given to the Brown University Library’s Carberry Fund, which is used to purchase “such books as Professor Carberry might or might not approve of.” Carberry regularly cancels scheduled campus appearances, unaccompanied by his wife Laura, daughters Lois and Patricia, and his assistant Truman Grayson, who has a habit of being bitten by animals that begin with the letter [A].

While preparing this post, I made an appointment to meet with Prof. Carberry at the John Hay Library. I was particularly looking forward to hearing about a medieval treatise he claims to have found buried beneath University Hall that categorizes 9th-century Viking pottery shards by color, shape, and density.  The esteemed Professor was forced to cancel when Grayson was unexpectedly attacked by an aardvark.

 

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