Category Archives: Fragmentology

Manuscript Road Trip: Otto Ege, St. Margaret, and Digital Fragmentology, Part 2

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

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

Back in 2014, I wrote about a lovely Book of Hours from late-fifteenth-century France that was dismembered by Otto Ege in the 1940s and whose leaves became number 48 in his “Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts” portfolios. I demonstrated how the contents of that manuscript identified it as having been made for the liturgical use of Châlons-sur-Marne (now Châlons-en-Champagne), near Reims in Northeast France, in the Champagne-Ardenne region. The manuscript included a lengthy versified Life of St. Margaret, patron of pregnant women, suggesting that it had been made for a woman. Today, I’m revisiting that manuscript to show you what she looked like.

20200414_175108As many of you will know by now, Ege and his wife Louise assembled forty “Fifty Original Leaves” (FOL) portfolios in the late 1940s (Louise continued the project after Otto’s death in 1951). Each portfolio contains fifty leaves, one from each of the same group of fifty manuscripts. Leaf 1 in one portfolio, for example, always comes from the same manuscript as Leaf 1 in every other portfolio of that name. Of the original forty, only twenty-eight have been found. Until now.

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a gentleman from Ohio who had found my name and email address after searching online for information about Otto Ege. He was writing with very exciting news; in cleaning out his recently-deceased uncle’s home, he had found a box in a basement closet with a label reading “Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts” and Otto Ege’s name inside. 20180331_150603 (2)Given the state of his uncle’s home (left), it’s somewhat of a miracle that the box was recovered at all!

This portfolio was Set no. 1, long declared missing and never-before studied. 20200414_175326His uncle had purchased it in the 1970s from dealer Bruce Ferrini, but its location since then had been unknown. I was, as you can imagine, stunned. Not only a previously-unknown Beauvais Missal leaf (no. 15 in the box), but an entirely unknown “Fifty Original Leaves” set! Fifty “new” leaves to examine, to add to the corpus of Ege leaves, to contribute to burgeoning scholarship on these manuscripts.

I spoke with the owner several times by phone, and he was quite happy to share images with me and other fragmentologists. It had been his uncle’s wish that his collection not be hidden away but be used for scholarship and teaching, and I am exceedingly grateful for his generosity.

The images arrived by mail a few days ago and I eagerly opened the thumbdrive and began looking through the scans. I’ve now shared images of particular leaves with scholars working on those manuscripts (as detailed here) and have added the new Beauvais Missal leaf to my own website and to my Fragmentarium-based reconstruction. I’ll be adding the new leaves of no. 29 and no. 30 to the Fragmentarium reconstructions of those manuscripts, projects undertaken by my students at the Simmons School of Library and Information Science over the past few years. My Simmons students reconstructed and studied FOL.48 in 2016 using Omeka, before Fragmentarium was up and running; their work can be found here.

No. 48 in the new portfolio is something particularly special. I’ve noted before that these portfolios almost always contain only text pages, not miniatures, because they were assembled as paleographical specimens. Ege and his sometime-partner Philip Duschnes would have sold the miniatures from these manuscripts separately. But set no. 1 is unusual, perhaps because it is in fact the first set; in this box, leaf 48 is a miniature.

FOL 48aAnd what a miniature! Originally found at the beginning of the Office of the Dead, this painting shows a woman in a maroon gown, with gold highlights illuminating the draped folds, standing before an arched facade (perhaps a church). She holds her left hand up in a defensive posture, because she is under attack. Death, as a decomposing corpse, has pulled a lengthy arrow from his quiver and is about to stab her in the heart. Death, we learn, comes for us all.

She is, almost certainly, the original owner of this Book of Hours.

The other identified miniature from this manuscript (currently in a private collection in New Zealand) is female-centered as well. Together, they would have served the same function as most miniatures in Books of Hours during this period: inspiring contemplation and prayer, piety and humility.

SL 21b recto

Sotheby’s London, 3 December 2013, Lot 21b

The other miniature (at right), illustrates the French verse Life of St. Margaret known as “Apres la sainte passion.” St. Margaret is shown in her standard iconographical setting, bursting from the belly of a dragon, crucifix in hand and her gown trailing from the dragon’s mouth. It is no wonder that she was the patroness of pregnant women. Margaret herself, in lines 535-549 of the poem, tells the pregnant reader that if she reads or listens to or even rests beneath the book in which Margaret’s life is recorded, she will deliver her child “without peril.” Imagine the emotional impact of these miniatures upon the pregnant reader: Death a terror, St. Margaret a comfort.

We may never know who this woman was. There simply isn’t enough evidence in the recovered part of the manuscript to identify her. But we know this much; she was a woman of child-bearing age who lived near Châlons-sur-Marne in the late 1400s.

FOL 48aAnd we know that she owned a book.



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Filed under Fragmentology, Medieval Manuscripts, Otto F. Ege, St. Margaret, Uncategorized

Manuscript Road Trip: Fragmentology under Quarantine

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 last few weeks, working from home as the world faces the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been Tweeting long threads about different manuscript-related subjects. But while following up on the latest thread, I made a discovery that is worth blogging about.

The thread was a brief tour of a fabulous  manuscript, Berlin, Staatsbibliothek MS Theol. Lat. Qu. 140, written and illustrated by Gottschalk of Lambach in the late twelfth century.


Berlin, Staatsbibliothek MS Theol. Lat. Qu. 140 (Lambach, s. XII ex)

At the end of the thread, I showed one of my favorite types of material evidence in medieval manuscripts: offsets left by manuscript fragments that were adhered to the binding structure and were later peeled away. I promised to follow up, so here goes.


Corpus juris civilis: Institutiones Justiniani, with gloss (Oxford, Bodleian Library, A 1.11 Art. Seld.)

It was quite common in the late medieval and early modern period for binders to dismantle older or damaged manuscripts and recycle their parchment leaves for use as binding structures – covers, flyleaves, pastedowns, stays, or spine liners. These binding fragments can still be found hiding in their bindings, just waiting to be discovered. Sometimes they are  removed from the binding and circulated separately, still bearing the scars of that use. The binding from which the fragment is removed can also bear the scars.

When a fragment pasted into a binding (like this one shown at the left, from Oxford) is peeled off, it may leave behind an inverted ghost-text. We have just such a situation inside the front and back covers of the Berlin manuscript.

You really can’t help but wonder about the missing fragments. When were they written? What text did they preserve? When were they peeled off? Where are they now? These are the fundamental questions a Fragmentologist asks, and I didn’t know the answers until today.


Front and Back boards, Berlin Staatsbibliothek MS Theol. Lat. Qu. 140

When faced with offsets like these, the first step is to invert the image so you can actually read the text. Here’s the front offset, inverted and in detail:

00000002 reverse detail

It’s actually quite legible!

Question No. 1: When and where was the fragment written? The script appears to be late tenth or early eleventh century (key features include the pointed minims of [m] and a long-[s] that drops slightly below the line of writing). These are eleventh-century fragments in a fifteenth-century binding of a twelfth-century manuscript. The binding and the manuscript are both from Lambach. What about the fragments? They are Germanic in style, but because they predate the 1056 foundation of the Lambach Abbey they must have been written elsewhere, perhaps brought to the Abbey at its foundation to stock the library.

Question No. 2: What text does it preserve? A good bit of the text is legible in the above detail: “factum est iam in illo” on the first line, “hominum” below, “ideo sunt homines” on line 3, and more. If you have access to one of the subscription collections of Latin texts, you need only plug in a few words and see what happens. During the pandemic, I’m working from home (like the rest of you), so all I’ve got is whatever is open access. Google is usually a good place to start, and, in this case, I was immediately successful in identifying the text! The phrase “factum est iam in illo” followed soon after by “hominum” and “ideo sunt homines” comes from Book IV:i of Augustine’s De Trinitate (online here):

De Trinitate

Questions no. 3 and 4: When were they removed, and where are they now? Because I spent five years cataloguing manuscript fragments at the Beinecke Library at Yale University, I happen to know that lots of binding fragments from Lambach ended up in that collection (including seventeen leaves of the Gottschalk Antiphonal, the subject of my dissertation and first book). The Beinecke is the first place to go for anything Lambach-related, so I started there by searching for keywords “Augustine” and “Trinitate.” Bingo! Three leaves from this same manuscript are now Beinecke MS 481.20, catalogued in part by yours truly thirty years ago!

The description of the leaves, completed by curator Robert G. Babcock after I had finished my PhD in 1993, notes 1996 correspondence from paleographer Hartmut Hoffmann in which he writes that these leaves do indeed come from the same manuscript as those that were removed from the Berlin binding. What Hoffmann couldn’t have known (because he didn’t have the images), and what I just discovered TODAY, is that MS 481.20.3 isn’t just from the same MANUSCRIPT as the missing leaves, it is in fact ONE OF THEM! Folio 481.20.3 can be shown to have been pasted down inside the front cover of the Berlin manuscript. The leaf and the offset are mirror images, and f. 3r matches the visible text offset on the front board:

Beinecke MS 481.20 3r and front board, Berlin Staatsbib. MS Theol. Lat. Qu. 140

The leaf that was pasted down inside the back board is NOT at Yale, though. Hoffmann’s letter (summarized here) records that another leaf of this manuscript is still in Lambach, where it is Fragment 8/11. No images of this fragment are available, so we can’t say for sure if that’s the other missing leaf. However, using the same technique as above the offset can be identified as De Trinitate IV:v-vi, and Hoffmann identifies the text on the Lambach fragment as preserving the same section. So it seems almost certain that the leaf removed from the lower board is indeed still in Lambach.


Beinecke MS 481.20.3r overlaid on the inner front board of Berlin, Staatsbibliothek MS Theol. Lat. Qu. 140 (inverted for legibility; image by Mike Toth)

As for WHEN the binding fragments were removed, I do know that part of the story because it played an important part in my dissertation research. In the 1930s, a scholar named Kurt Holter visited the Lambach library and made detailed and extensive notes about fragments in fifteenth-century bindings. When he returned to Lambach after WWII, the manuscripts were still there, but nearly all of the binding fragments were gone, most having been sold by the Abbey during the war to raise funds for necessary woodworking equipment. The Berlin manuscript was still in Lambach at that time, but the fragments had been removed and sold. From Lambach, the fragment collection made its way to Switzerland, where it was acquired in the 1950s by a dealer named Franz Zinniker. He sold the collection to NYC dealer Hans Kraus, who sold part of it to Yale in 1965 and donated the other half later that same year. By that time, the Lambach origin of the fragments had been forgotten. The story of how Robert Babcock, myself, and two other graduate students (Philip Rusche and Nancy Seybold) traced the fragments back to Lambach has been told elsewhere. This identification of 481.20.3 as having been removed from the Berlin manuscript is a poignant epilogue.00000005Gottschalk

Stay safe, friends.


Babcock, Robert Gary. Reconstructing a Medieval Library: Fragments from Lambach (New Haven, 1993)

Babcock, Robert Gary, Lisa Fagin Davis, and Philip Rusche. Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Volume IV, MSS 481-485 (Tempe, 2004)

Davis, Lisa Fagin. The Gottschalk Antiphonary: Music and Liturgy in Twelfth-Century Lambach (Cambridge, 2000)


Filed under Fragmentology, Uncategorized

Manuscript Road Trip: Fragmentology in the Wild

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

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

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).

Screenshot (819)

Wadsworth Athenaeum (Hartford, Connecticut), “Fifty Original Leaves” no. 4

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.

Screenshot (821)

Kent State University (Kent, Ohio), “Fifty Original Leaves,” no. 7

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 14: A beautiful fourteenth-century French lectern Bible that is being studied by Mildred Budny. She has written about it extensively here.

Ege FOL 15: The Beauvais Missal, my own project. I’ve located 106 out of 309 leaves so far, but I’m always looking for more! This reconstruction is part of the Broken Books Project at St. Louis University, a case study in using IIIF-compliant images in the Mirador shared-canvas viewer to digitally reconstruct dismembered manuscripts.

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.


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University of South Carolina (Columbia , South Carolina), “Fifty Original Leaves,” no. 31

Ege FOL 31: A lovely Book of Hours that my Simmons students will work on in the fall of 2019. Stay tuned!

Ege FOL 41: Mildred Budny has written about this manuscript here.

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 61: Mildred Budny’s work on this tiny thirteenth-century Bible can be found here.

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.

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Garden of roses by Saadi: Persia, late 18th century (Brooklyn Museum, Z109_Eg7_p10_recto)

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.

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!


Filed under Fragmentology, Medieval Manuscripts, Otto F. Ege, Uncategorized

Manuscript Road Trip: (Re)introducing the Gottschalk Antiphonal!

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

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

A few months ago, I wrote about the potential of Fragmentarium for cataloguing fragments and digitally reconstructing dismembered manuscripts. I concluded that post with the  aspirational note, “I really do think it’s time for Gottschalk to go digital,” in reference to the manuscript I reconstructed as part of my PhD dissertation at Yale in the early 1990s. That work was done using black-and-white photocopies, and, when published by Cambridge University Press in the year 2000, black-and-white photographs. Now, 750 years after the manuscript was written, the Gottschalk Antiphonal has finally gone digital! I am very pleased to introduce my Fragmentarium reconstruction of the Gottschalk Antiphonal, in glorious IIIF-compliant interoperable color:


Hello, Gottschalk!

I was inspired to add Gottschalk to Fragmentarium by my students’ work reconstructing other manuscripts and motivated to actually do it by my participation in a Fragmentology session at the recent International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. Thousands of medievalists from all over the world flock to Kalamazoo every May for this annual conference, listening to and learning from one another, greeting old friends, conferring with colleagues. My session was chaired by Elizabeth Hebbard (Indiana Univ.) and included fragmentology presentations by Julia King (Univ. of Toronto), Kayla Lunt (Indiana Univ.), Dana Kovarik (Univ. College London), and Elena Iourtaeva (Harvard Univ.). All six of us are working on fragmentology projects. I noted in my presentation that the Swiss-German word for “fragmentology” is “Schnipseljagd” (fragment hunting), which makes all six of us Schnipseljägerinnen (“Fragment huntresses”). That might just be my new favorite word.


The Schnipseljägerinnen of Kalamazoo

In my presentation I discussed the fragmentology projects completed by my students at the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, and I debuted my digital reconstruction of the Gottschalk Antiphonal.


The Gottschalk Antiphonal, with Gottschalk’s distinctive script, neumatic notation, marginal tonary-letters, and purple-and-red penwork initials (BRBL MS 481.51.6v)

The Gottschalk Antiphonal was written and illustrated in the late twelfth century by the scribe/artist/monk Gottschalk of Lambach and was used at the Lambach abbey for several centuries. The manuscript is a choirbook for the Divine Offices recited throughout the day, preserving liturgy for specific days throughout the year. Because it is a choirbook, it includes interlinear musical notation: predating the development of the four-line-staff and Gregorian notation, the Antiphonal uses unheightened neumes in the St. Gall style, with tonary-letters (indicating something akin to the “key” of each chant) in the margins. Gottschalk’s distinctive artistic style permeates the manuscript, with penwork initials in purple and red.

By the fifteenth century, the musical notation and liturgy were centuries out-of-date, and, along with many other manuscripts, the obsolete antiphonal was dismembered to be used as binding scrap at the Lambach Abbey bindery. During World War II, the monks found themselves in need of a new wood lathe. To raise money for the purchase, they removed the antiphonal leaves and dozens of other fragments from the later bindings in which they had been repurposed, and sold them.

The fragments made their way en masse via a Swiss bookdealer to the New York firm of Hans P. Kraus, and from there to Yale University’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (BRBL) in 1965. By the time the leaves had been acquired by Kraus, however, the original provenance of the group had been forgotten. Fortunately, a scholar by the name of Kurt Holter had studied and described the fragments in situ at Lambach before the war. It was thanks to his published descriptions of the leaves that then-curator Robert G. Babcock and a team of graduate students (including myself) were, in the early 1990s, able to identify the Beinecke collection as having originated at Lambach. I was particularly intrigued by the seventeen antiphonal leaves and decided to make the manuscript the subject of my dissertation. In addition to the seventeen Gottschalk Antiphonal leaves at Yale (BRBL MS 481.51), there are two at Harvard’s Houghton Library (MS Typ 704 (5) and 704 (6)). We have already seen the leaf that toured the midwestern United States in an aluminum trailer before settling down at the St. Louis Public Library, and there are a few still in Austria (at a hotel in Badgastein, in the abbey of St. Paul im Lavanttal, and in Lambach itself, although the incunable flyleaves observed there as recently as 1998 have since vanished and are represented in the online reconstruction by my old black-and-white photographs).


Offset of a Gottschalk Antiphonal leaf (BRBL Zi +1525, inner rear cover) (image rotated and inverted)

In 2016, an offset of a leaf of the Gottschalk Antiphonal was found in an incunable belonging to the Beinecke Library. The mirror-image remnant was left behind when the actual leaf was peeled off of the wooden board, where it had been used to secure the leather turn-ins on the back cover. Ironically, the volume had been at the Beinecke for decades by the time I wrote my thesis there, but it was only during a recent survey of the bindings by Elizabeth Hebbard (Indiana Univ.) that the offset was photographed and identified. The leaf was originally consecutive with one of the leaves at Harvard, and I have added an inverted and rotated image of the offset to my Fragmentarium reconstruction. I hope that more leaves will come to light someday. If they do, they can easily be added to the twenty-nine leaves currently appearing in the Fragmentarium shared canvas.

And here’s a sidenote for the liturgists among you (if you’re not interested in a deep dive into the structure of medieval liturgical manuscripts, you should skip the next few paragraphs). Every time I’ve returned to the Gottschalk Antiphonal over the years, I’ve found myself wondering if I really did put the leaves in the right order. There are no folio numbers, after all, so only the content can determine the correct sequence. In the case of the Gottschalk Antiphonal, the correct order of leaves isn’t always obvious.

The order of the leaves is debatable because in the early Middle Ages, there was no consistent organizational system for liturgical manuscripts. They tended to be organized calendrically, but some manuscripts intermingled the movable feasts like Easter with the dated feasts like Saints’ days (see Hughes, p. 243, ms B60 for one such example). This system was a bit messy, since it necessitated interspersing set feasts with those that could move. In the later Middle Ages (starting in the thirteenth century or so), a more orderly system developed that untangled the two types of feastdays. As a result, later liturgical manuscripts are almost always divided into two sections known as the Temporale (the movable feasts whose dates are set relative to Easter, plus a few set feasts like Christmas and Epiphany) and the Sanctorale (saints’ feasts in calendrical order, e.g. St. Valentine on February 14). Both sections usually begin in late November, with the beginning of Advent for the Temporale and Saint Andrew (30 November) for the Sanctorale. The Sanctorale is usually followed by the Commons, generic liturgy for particular classes of saints like Virgin Martyrs or Popes.

BRBL 481.51.8r

Initial Q in Gottschalk’s distinctive style (BRBL MS 481.51.8r)

The Gottschalk Antiphonal is of the earlier variety that mingles Temporale and Sanctorale. For example, a now-lost leaf that was formerly bound into an incunable in the Lambach Abbey library includes liturgy for the Sunday during the Octave of Epiphany (part of the Temporale, even though Epiphany has a fixed date) as well as the liturgy for St. Paul the First Hermit (a Sanctorale feast on January 10) and St. Hilary of Poitiers (January 13). Depending on the day of week on which Epiphany fell in a given year, St. Paul or St. Hilary’s feastdays might have landed before, on, or after the Sunday that occurs during the eight days following Epiphany. This intermigling of Temporale and Sanctorale means that it’s not entirely obvious where in the year the manuscript begins or how leaves with Sanctorale feasts relate to calendrically-nearby Temporale feasts. But you have to start somewhere, and because most manuscripts begin with the first Sunday of Advent, it seemed logical to begin the Gottschalk Antiphonal there. And so BRBL MS 481.51.1, the Fourth Sunday of Advent, begins my reconstruction (Sundays 1-3 are not extant). From that point, the leaves are in roughly calendrical order, from Advent to Christmas (December), Epiphany season through Lent (January – March), Easter season (March – April), the Summer Sundays and autumn feasts (May – November), ending with St. Lucy (13 December) and St. Thomas the Apostle (21 December). I feel confident about this sequence in part because the office of St. Thomas is immediately followed by the first Common office, for Evangelists (BRBL MS 481.51.17).

Typ 704 6r

Virgin Saint (Harvard Univ., Houghton Library, MS Typ 704 (6) recto)

This placement suggests that the calendrical sequence ends in December and supports the idea that it began with Advent season. However, this theory is complicated by the fact that Advent season itself would have encompassed the Saints of December such as Lucy and Thomas. Gottschalk’s solution to this complexity appears to have been to simply avoid mingling the Sanctorale with Advent. For example, BRBL MS 481.51.2, liturgy for the week after the Fourth Sunday of Advent, provides ONLY Temporale liturgy and does not give any hint of Sanctorale feasts, even though that week could have included Saints from late December such as Lucy or Thomas. Instead, Gottschalk inserted the Saints of Advent season at the end of the manuscript, when the calendar circled back around to December. With only 29 leaves recovered out of perhaps as many as one hundred, however, it is certainly possible that additional evidence may result in adjustments to this sequence. Because Fragmentarium uses a drag-and-drop feature to sequence images, it will be quite simple to add or re-order leaves if necessary. The clip below demonstrates this backend functionality.


It is worth noting that images of the two leaves at Harvard were imported directly into the Fragmentarium reconstruction using a persistent IIIF url. The other images were uploaded to the Fragmentarium server as individual JPGs. That’s part of the magic of both Fragmentarium and of IIIF, the International Image Interoperability Framework.

Typ 704 5v

Angel of the Annunciation (Harvard Univ., Houghton Library MS Typ 704 (5) verso)

IIIF is the key to fragmentology. If an institutional repository serves its images using IIIF, each individual imagefile will have a persistent IIIF url that can be used to mirror the image directly into a shared-canvas viewer such as Mirador or, in the case of Fragmentarium, Open Sea Dragon. This means that the images are truly open access and can be shared, imported, and manipulated without duplicating, downloading, or uploading the imagefile itself. When the Fragmentarium shared canvas is opened or refreshed, the IIIF images are “mirrored” into the canvas directly from the host server, freed from the host’s viewer or database. The image also has its own metadata established by the home institution that “travels” with it into the shared canvas. If you want to learn more about IIIF and the Mirador viewer, by the way, check out the three-day workshop at the Beinecke Library on 10-12 July 2018 that I will be co-teaching with Stanford University’s Ben Albritton. The deadline to apply is June 1, and more information is available here.

Gottschalk AntiphonaryWhen I first studied the Gottschalk Antiphonal in the early 1990s, I did it with scissors and paste and black-and-white photocopies on the floor of my living room. It is truly thrilling to see it in glorious IIIF-compliant interoperable color in Fragmentarium. I hope that the reconstruction will complement the liturgical, art historical, and musicological study in my book, bringing this beautiful example of twelfth-century music, liturgy, and decoration to a new generation of students and scholars.



Davis, Lisa Fagin. The Gottschalk Antiphonary: Music and Liturgy in Twelfth-Century Lambach (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000)

Davis, Lisa Fagin. Fragmentarium. Multiple, Dispersed Virtual Reconstructions, Gottschalk Antiphonal <> (accessed 21 May 2018)

Hughes, Andrew. Medieval Manuscripts for Mass and Office: A Guide to their Organization and Terminology (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995)


Filed under Fragmentology, Medieval Manuscripts

Fragmentarium: a Model for Digital Fragmentology

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

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

In the early 1990s, I was a graduate student at Yale working on a PhD in Medieval Studies. My dissertation focused on a fragmentology project, although that word would not be coined for decades. Seventeen leaves from a twelfth-century antiphonal from the Austrian Benedictine abbey of Lambach (on the Danube about halfway between Salzburg and Vienna) had made their way to Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, and for my thesis I reconstructed the manuscript as much as possible – adding to the seventeen Yale leaves four leaves still in Lambach, two in the abbey of St-Paul-im-Lavanttal, another that was hanging on the wall of an alpine resort in Badgastein, two at Harvard, and one at the St. Louis Public Library (I’ve blogged about that one here) – and studied the cumulative liturgy, music, and decoration of the manuscript in the context of the twelfth-century Lambach scriptorium. The manuscript is known as the Gottschalk Antiphonary (or Antiphonal), after the scribe/artist Gottschalk of Lambach who was primarily responsible for its creation. 

Gottschalk Houghton

The Gottschalk Antiphonal

The Gottschalk Antiphonal has a very different post-medieval story than the leaves of manuscripts dismembered by Otto Ege about which I have frequently blogged. The Gottschalk Antiphonal was a victim of pre-modern recycling rather than twentieth-century biblioclasm. The manuscript – its music and liturgy hopelessly outdated by the late Middle Ages – was taken apart in the fifteenth century and its leaves were used as flyleaves and pastedowns for incunables bound at the Lambach bindery. These and dozens of other binding fragments were removed from the early bindings and sold to raise money for the Abbey’s woodshop during World War II. Eventually, the collection made its way to New York dealer Hans P. Kraus, and from there to the Beinecke Library at Yale in the 1960s along with hundreds of fragments collectively known as MS 481 and MS 482. By that time, the origin of the Lambach group had been forgotten.

As a graduate student in the 1990s, I had a job working for the Curator of Pre-1600 Books and Manuscripts at the Beinecke and was assigned the task of cataloguing part of Yale’s enormous fragment collection, of which the then-unidentified leaves of the Gottschalk Antiphonal were part. The story of how the curator (Robert G. Babcock), fellow students Philip Rusche and Nancy Seybold, and I discovered the Lambach origin of the Antiphonal and dozens of other leaves has been told elsewhere. The Lambach project was the inspiration for my dissertation and first book and was the beginning of my thirty-year interest in medieval manuscript leaves and fragments.


Fragmentology, ca. 1992

Reconstructing the Gottschalk Antiphonal in 1992, sitting on the floor of my living room with scissors and paste and photocopies of the leaves, I was, without realizing it, “doing” fragmentology. Analog was the only option back then, of course. In the early years of the twenty-first century, scholars began to realize the potential of burgeoning digital technologies for the virtual reconstruction of dismembered manuscripts. The call to arms was issued by Barbara Shailor (who was at the time the Director of the Beinecke Library) in a 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)

After several fits and starts, “time, financial resources, and scholarly communication and perseverance” have finally, fifteen years later, made the vision of virtual reconstruction a reality. Technology has caught up with our dreams in the form of IIIF-compliant shared-canvas interoperability.


IIIF: the key to digital fragmentology!

All that tech-speak may be a little jarring, but it really is the key to the what fragmentology can accomplish. Let’s unpack it.

IIIF (the International Image Interoperability Framework) is a way of presenting digital images in an online environment that allows them to be shared via a permanent URL instead of by downloading and uploading into a silo (there’s more to it than that, of course, but that’s the basic idea). In other words, if an online image is IIIF-compliant, it can be manifested in a workspace known as a “shared canvas” simply by pointing to the permanent IIIF URL. The image is drawn into the shared canvas when called for rather than being physically stored there. This interoperability has the advantage of enabling a user to apply their own metadata and annotations and sequence the images without transforming the actual imagefile. An image can be stored in one place while being used in multiple workspaces. The model is completely open-access and avoids siloing, and is thus in keeping with digital best practices. Even the code needed to set up a IIIF server is open-source. For more on IIIF and shared canvas, including technical specifications (which are WAY beyond my ken), see the IIIF site.

So what does all this have to do with digital fragmentology? To find out, we have to go to Switzerland.

Screenshot (301).png

The recently-launched Fragmentarium project (based in Fribourg) combines IIIF with a powerful mySQL database to allow for the cataloguing of individual fragments and leaves and the virtual reconstruction of parent manuscripts in a shared canvas workspace. Brought to you by the incredible team behind e-codices, Fragmentarium uses a flexible and well-designed data model that is fragment-centric and follows international standards of authority and data modeling. It is the culmination of decades of development on the technical side and of metadata design on the scholarly side. Several institutions are already working on Fragmentarium case studies, uploading images (if they don’t already have IIIF purls), cataloguing them, and creating virtual reconstructions. 

Let’s head back to Boston now, to the Simmons School of Library and Information Science, where I teach an annual course titled “The Medieval Manuscript from Charlemagne to Gutenberg.” For the last three years, I have assigned my students an Ege manuscript to study and reconstruct as their final project. You can read about the 2015 and 2016 projects here. This year, my students participated in a Fragmentarium case study. Each student was assigned a leaf from the lovely early fifteenth-century Book of Hours known as “Fifty Original Leaves no. 30” (or FOL 30), because leaves from this manuscript are always no. 30 in Ege’s Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts portfolios. We found twenty-eight leaves in twenty-eight collections, and the first part of the assignment was for each student to catalogue their leaf in the Fragmentarium database. I am extremely grateful, by the way, to Fragmentarium’s William Duba and Christoph Flüeler for facilitating the project.



Simmons students creating the shared canvas sequence

Once the leaves had been catalogued, we worked as a class to assemble the known leaves in order in a IIIF shared canvas. Fragmentarium makes sequencing images simple with a drag-and-drop feature. Once the images are in order, one click creates the shared canvas reconstruction (click the “thumbnails” link at the bottom and the “metadata” link at the left for the full experience). The students were familiar with the basic structure of a Book of Hours, so once they had identified the contents of each leaf, it was fairly straightforward to put the leaves in order and create a record for the reconstructed manuscript (this work was made even easier by the survival of folio numbers on some of the leaves!).

The next step demonstrated why such reconstructions are worthwhile. Using the cumulative liturgical evidence of the reconstructed manuscript – much more evidence than survives on a single leaf – the students conducted original research to determine its origin and provenance. By analyzing the saints in the reconstructed Litany and the liturgy of the Office of the Dead, the students concluded that the manuscript was originally written for the Use of Paris (no other portions of the manuscript that might have provided supporting evidence – such as the Calendar or the Hours of the Virgin – survive). By searching the dimensions and known contents of the reconstructed manuscript in the Schoenberg Database, they were able to identify several early-twentieth-century sales of the whole manuscript and identify it as the manuscript purchased by collector C. L. Ricketts from dealer Bernard Quaritch in 1922 (see de Ricci, Census I:634, no. 116) and sold by Parke-Bernet Galleries in 1939. It was dismembered by Ege or his business partner Philip Duschnes soon thereafter. As a final step, I updated the Schoenberg Database to reflect these discoveries, creating a new manuscript record that links the provenance records. These discoveries by my students were completely original. Instead of considering these a scattered group of pretty leaves, we now know that this manuscript was made for the Use of Paris and, from details in the Parke-Bernet catalogue, we know it had 189 leaves and seven miniatures and that it had been bound by Rivière. We know it was offered by Quaritch several times before being bought by Ricketts in 1922. We know it was bought and broken sometime after 1939. And now we can see, at least in part, how it once looked.


When I remember sitting on my living room floor with scissors and paste, I am truly awed and inspired by the beauty, simplicity, and effectiveness of the Fragmentarium model. Next year, my students will use Fragmentarium to reconstruct and study FOL 29. Who knows what we’ll find? Stay tuned.

And I really do think it’s time for Gottschalk to go digital. 







Filed under Fragmentology, Medieval Manuscripts, Otto F. Ege, Uncategorized