*Updated as noted below*
A recent blogpost by tenacious and brilliant manuscript researcher Peter Kidd inspired me to write this post, on a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for some time: an update on digital reconstructions of manuscripts dismembered and/or scattered by Otto Ege. If that name is new to you, take a look at this site, my blogposts here and here, and search Peter Kidd’s blog, to get the basics. If you happen to own any leaves that came through Ege’s hands, you’ll also want to find a copy of Scott Gwara’s seminal reference work Otto Ege’s Manuscripts (in what follows, the FOL and HL designations refer to Gwara’s handlist).
Peter Kidd recently made significant discoveries about the provenance of the codex that became Ege FOL 4 (i.e. no. 4 in the “Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts” portfolios), discoveries that were quickly supplemented on Twitter by University of Notre Dame curator David Gura’s realization that UND manuscript Lat. b. 11 is in fact a portion of the manuscript that became Ege FOL 4. I then contacted Dr. Yin Liu, a professor in the English Department at the University of Saskatchewan who is supervising a Master’s Thesis on this very manuscript, to tell her of Kidd and Gura’s discoveries. This is just one example of how networks of scholars are using social media to make discoveries and share information about fragments and fragmentology. Search #fragmentology or #OttoEge to see more such networks at work.
The potential for digital reconstruction of Ege manuscripts was first noted by Barbara Shailor in her 2003 article, “Otto Ege: His Manuscript Fragment Collection and the Opportunities Presented by Electronic Technology” (The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries 60 (2003), 1-22). “For Otto Ege fragments now dispersed around the world,” she wrote, “the possibilities presented by modern technology are fascinating. It is only a matter of time, financial resources, and scholarly communication and perseverance before significant portions of Ege’s intriguing collection will be reassembled and made available electronically.” (p. 22) Since the advent of Digital Fragmentology as a methodological framework a few years ago, the number of digital reconstructions of dismembered medieval manuscripts has multiplied and continues to grow as more scholars see the potential of such research and engage with interoperable images to conduct their work. In particular, several projects are underway that take advantage of the coherent collections of leaves assembled by biblioclast Otto Ege and his wife Louise in the mid-twentieth century.
In the wake of the expanding universe of Digital Fragmentology, I thought it might be useful to gather in one place the current work being done by different scholars on Ege manuscripts, so that curators and collectors will know whom they should contact if they come across these leaves. All of these scholars will already be familiar with the leaves in the known “Fifty Original Leaves” portfolios, but if you come across examples that aren’t in portfolios, please let them know! Here are the projects of which I am aware:
Ege FOL 1: A twelfth-century glossed Bible. There is a large portion of this manuscript at Stanford University, and the curator of manuscripts there, Benjamin L Albritton, is working on a digital reconstruction. This was the first use-case employing IIIF-compliance in a shared-canvas environment, demonstrating how this technology could be used to digitally reconstruct dismembered manuscripts.
Ege FOL 4: This is the so-called Chain Psalter that is the subject of Ariel Brecht’s Master’s thesis at the University of Saskatchewan. If you find a leaf that isn’t in an Ege portfolio, please contact her.
Ege FOL 7: This thirteenth-century copy of Peter Riga’s Aurora is being reconstructed by incoming Columbia University Freshman Sindhu Krishnamurthy, under my guidance. If you find a leaf, please let me know and I will contact her.
Ege FOL 8: The “Wilton Processional” is the subject of extensive study and publication by Alison Altstatt at the University of Northern Iowa. In particular, see “Re-membering the Wilton Processional” in Notes: the Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 72, no. 4 (June 2016), 690-732.
Ege FOL 28: A lovely Book of Hours for the Use of Metz studied and reconstructed by Simmons University students in the fall of 2019. [UPDATED 12/26/20]
Ege FOL 29: A Book of Hours reconstructed by students in my Introduction to Medieval Manuscripts class at the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science (Boston, Massachusetts) in the fall of 2018, using the Fragmentarium interface. More on Fragmentarium here.
Ege FOL 30: Another Book of Hours rebuilt in Fragmentarium, this one undertaken by my Simmons students in the fall of 2017.
Ege FOL 46: This Book of Hours was reconstructed by Simmons University students in the fall of 2020, using Fragmentarium. By analyzing the recovered portion of the manuscript, they determined that the manuscript was likely made for the Use of Rouen or Coutances. [UPDATED 12/26/20]
Ege FOL 47: Another Book of Hours reconstructed by Simmons students, this one using Omeka in 2015 (as Fragmentarium hadn’t yet been launched).
Ege FOL 48: Yet ANOTHER Book of Hours reconstructed by yet MORE Simmons students, using Omeka in the fall of 2016.
Ege HL 51: This complex Aristotelian manuscript from Erfurt is being studied by Prof. Riccardo Strobino at Tufts University. Leaves of this manuscript are no. 2 in Ege’s “Original Leaves from Famous Books, Eight Centuries” and no. 3 in the “Original Leaves from Famous Books, Nine Centuries” portfolios. These portfolios are numerous, and Gwara identifies several dozen locations (Gwara, pp. 100-102).
Ege HL 64: Andy Patton (Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts) is working on this Greek Gospel book. [UPDATE as of 25 April 2020]
Ege HL 79: This manuscript isn’t the subject of a reconstruction (yet), but since it was written by the well-known humanistic scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito, it may be worth someone’s attention! More about this manuscript here (by Peter Kidd).
Ege HL 80: Although he isn’t working on a formal reconstruction of this humanistic Book of Hours, Peter Kidd has written about its history and dispersal here. It’s worth noting that the University of Colorado at Boulder owns several leaves, including a bifolium and two that are illuminated.
I don’t know of anyone who is working on any of the non-western leaves (fifteen of which were part of what Ege called the “Oriental” portfolio), but they are all excellent candidates for reconstructions. Fragmentarium allows for right-left directional reading in reconstructions, by the way, making it an excellent interface for such a project.
To help identify Ege leaves in your own collection, or if you want to work on any of the other Ege manuscripts, start your search with this selection of “Fifty Original Leaves” sets, beautifully digitized in open-access environments:
Other sets are posted on Denison’s Ege site, but these images are not always high quality. For other Ege-related leaves, you’ll want to refer to the indices in Gwara’s book. To help with these identifications, I’ve created a shared Dropbox folder with images and metadata for more than 100 different manuscripts dismembered by Ege. Check out my “Ege Field Guide” here.
If you do happen to find any of the above-mentioned leaves in your own collection, please contact the relevant scholars (or you can always reach out to me and I’ll pass the news along to the appropriate person). If I’ve missed any Ege-based reconstruction projects, please let me know and I’ll work to keep this list updated. In the meantime, follow #fragmentology and #OttoEge on Twitter to stay on top of breaking fragmentology news!