Manuscript Road Trip: An Otto Ege Treasure Trove in Maine

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

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

About two months ago, I received an email with the subject line “Beauvais Missal.” My interest piqued, I opened the message to find Maine bookseller Seth Thayer writing to report that he had found a leaf of the Missal “in a trunk in a client’s house in Maine.”

Indeed he had.

This leaf-in-a-box turned out to be the 100th identified folio of the Beauvais Missal. But there was much more.

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For several days, Seth continued to send images of additional leaves he found in the trunk, eleven in all. The client believed them to have been purchased in New York in the 1950s and stored in the trunk since the 1970s. They hadn’t seen the light of day in forty years.

Several of the leaves looked very familiar to me, and after some research I was able to identify nearly all of them as having passed through the hands of our old friend Otto F. Ege or his close associate Philip Duschnes.

Colby vThe Beauvais Missal

This Beauvais Missal leaf preserves liturgy for the Office of St. Lawrence (10 August) and is consecutive with a leaf belonging to a collector in Bath, Ohio. The leaf is unusual in that it provides complete choral pieces instead of the incipits found elsewhere in the manuscript, because of St. Lawrence’s status as an Apostle. For example, in this image of the verso, the versicle and offertory are given in full on multiple staves of music.

The Wilton Processional

Another exciting find: two leaves from a thirteenth-century processional made for the nuns of Wilton Abbey. The manuscript is the subject of important work being done by  University of Northern Iowa musicologist Alison Altstatt. Leaves of this processional were used by Ege as no. 8 in his “Fifty Original Leaves” portfolio; some images of those leaves can be found here, but to really learn about this important manuscript, spend some time with this video and watch for Prof. Altstatt’s forthcoming article, “Re-membering the Wilton Processional” in Notes: The Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, 72:4 (June 2016), 590-632.

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Leaf of the Wilton Processional

 

The Processional leaf above was housed in a red-fillet matte of the style typically used by New York dealer Philip Duschnes and his associate Otto Ege. The Processional leaf below was found in a custom frame and includes the label of the seller, Livingston Galleries in New York. This suggests that the two leaves may have been purchased from different sources at different times, begging the question as to whether the owner realized they were from the same manuscript and purchased one because he already owned the other.

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Another Leaf of the Wilton Processional

 

1946 Mirror

Damn Yankees                                   (remember, I live in Boston)

When Thayer removed the framed leaf from its glass, he found that it, too, was housed in the same style matte. But there was another surprise in the frame: a New York newspaper from June 5, 1946. This is actually a really important piece of evidence, as it helps to establish the date when the leaf was framed (soon after June 5, 1946), which in turn helps establish when the Wilton Processional was broken (before then). This pushes back by at least two years the possible date of Ege and Duschnes’ acquisition of this manuscript as recorded by Gwara (Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, p. 346). It is likely they acquired and broke up the manuscript before June of 1946 [n.b. Peter Kidd’s comment below].

There are several layers of provenance to be read in this particular leaf. First, its origin: part of a processional made for the nuns of Wilton Abbey in the thirteenth century. Then, the red fillet matte, into which it was secured before June 1946, probably by Philip Duschnes (given the New York provenance, as opposed to Ege in Ohio). Then, the frame, into which it was placed by Livingston Galleries in June 1946. Then, the trunk, in which it was stored in the 1970s.

Most of the other leaves can be definitively identified as having passed through the hands of Philip Duschnes and Otto Ege; again, given the New York connection, it is likely that these particular leaves were sold by Duschnes rather than Ege. In the montage below, clockwise from the upper left and with reference to Scott Gwara’s Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, these leaves are found in his handlist as numbers 115, 73 (two leaves), 65, 82, 99, and 100.

Montage

 

choirbooksThe final leaf (shown to the right), from a large choirbook, cannot be positively identified in Gwara’s handlist, but it may be lurking in there somewhere.

Thayer was committed to finding an institutional home for the leaves, where they could be used for study and teaching. He was successful; the entire group has just been acquired by Colby College in Waterville, Maine.

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A Happy Ending: Students and faculty from Colby College examining the new leaves

 

 

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Manuscript Road Trip, Canadian Edition: Newfoundland

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

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

Heading northeast from Nova Scotia, we’ll make our way across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the island of Newfoundland, whose Atlantic coast is the continent’s most easterly point, granted the daily gift of North America’s first sunrise.

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As far as I know, there is only one collection in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador housing pre-1600 European manuscripts: Memorial University in St. John’s.

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Memorial’s collection is uncommon in several respects. The manuscripts have been catalogued, both in the library OPAC and in two online handlists (here and here), and several have been completely and beautifully digitized (linked from the first handlist). In addition, unlike the collection we looked at last week in Nova Scotia whose manuscripts were acquired by bequest a century ago, Memorial is actively collecting, having acquired nearly all of its early manuscripts in the last decade. In its acquisition, cataloguing, and digitization programmes, Memorial University is impressively on par with larger, more well-known institutions.

Not only is the Library acquiring fine examples from various regions and centuries to form an excellent teaching collection, but several of the manuscripts have esteemed histories, making them fascinating case studies in provenance and North American collection development.

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Opening initial, Hours of the Virgin (Memorial University, Newfoundland, BX 2080 1455 vault, f. 16r)

Memorial’s beautiful mid-fifteenth-century Dutch Book of Hours (made in Haarlem for the use of Utrecht) is a great example of a manuscript with an impressive origin and storied history.  This codex is full of extraordinary penwork decoration, almost shockingly ornate. The penwork holds many hidden surprises; check out the face hidden in the lower left corner of f. 63v!

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The scribe of this professionally-produced manuscript has been localized by Margriet Hülsmann – who has identified several other manuscripts written in this hand – as active in Haarlem, ca. 1455 – 1465 (see “An identifiable Haarlem scribe active c.1455 to c.1465 in the environment of the Master of the Haarlem Bible”, Quaerendo 33, 2003, nos 1 & 2, pp. 119-134, this manuscript described on pp.120, 125-6). Hülsmann also affiliates the decorative stamps on the original leather binding with a Haarlem workshop of the same period.

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Provenance inscriptions (Memorial University, Newfoundland, BX 2080 1455 vault, first blank leaf)

By the early nineteenth century, the manuscript had crossed the English Channel, where it was bought in Exeter by Devonshire collector Charles Aldenburg Bentinck (1810-1891), who made note of the acquisition on the first flyleaf. In 1943, the manuscript was purchased by famed British collector (and Sussex sheriff and brewer) John Roland Abbey (1894-1969), who affixed his very impressive gilt and embossed bookplate inside the front cover. This was no. 2225 in his collection.

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Abbey Bookplate (Memorial University, Newfoundland, BX 2080 1455 vault, inner front cover)

The Abbey library was dispersed by Sotheby’s London in the 1970s. In Part 7 of the sale (1 Dec. 1970), this manuscript was lot 2880. From Sotheby’s, the manuscript went through several hands before making its way to St. John’s (see Schoenberg Database records 26721, 83131, and 185343; the latter is Christie’s London, 23 Nov. 2010, lot 15).

In addition to several other codices (see the handlists linked above), Memorial has recently acquired nearly two dozen single leaves, several of which are particularly noteworthy. None of these images are available online as of yet, and I thank Memorial librarians Jeannie Bail and Patrick Warner for their generosity in sharing these images with me and allowing me to share them with you.
Leaf from the Chundleigh Bible (side 1)

This bible leaf, preserving part of the fourth book of Kings, comes from a thirteenth-century manuscript from Arras known as the Chudleigh Bible, so named for Lord Clifford of Chudleigh, who owned the complete manuscript in the first half of the twentieth century. The volume was sold by Lord Clifford at Sotheby’s on 7 December 1953, lot 51, and appeared there again on 8 July 1970, lot 104.  It was broken soon afterwards and the leaves dispersed. Although the Memorial University leaf does not have any historiated initials (such as those in these leaves sold recently at Christie’s), it is clearly identifiable as part of the Chudleigh Bible because of its dimensions (54 lines, two columns, 285 x 190 (185 x 120) mm) and the distinctive decorative red-framed annotations. Stanford University owns a bifolium of the manuscript, and other leaves have been sold by Quaritch (cat.1147, 1991, no 15), Maggs (Cat.1167, 1993, no 2), and Sotheby’s, 6 December 2005, lot 16 and 8 July 2014, lots 13-14.

Another recent acquisition of note is this leaf, from a processional attributed to the nuns of the Royal Dominican Abbey of St-Louis at Poissy:

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At first glance, this looks an awful lot like the manuscripts produced in France in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries (like this or this), with the vertical bars, colorful vines, spindly tendrils, and trefoil leaves typical of manuscripts produced around the year 1400. In fact, the pencil notation in the lower margin makes just such an early attribution, albeit slightly earlier than one might immediately think.
At second glance, however, something looks odd. The blunt, squared-off appendages to the vines are unusual…the script is a later style than would usually accompany this kind of decoration…and so on. In fact, in her unpublished dissertation, Joan Naughton argues that the sixteenth-century nuns of Poissy were in the habit (sorry) of “archaizing” late-fifteenth and early sixteenth-century manuscripts by adding decoration in an antiquated style, making them appear older than they really were (“Manuscripts from the Dominican Monastery of Saint-Louis de Poissy,” unpubl. PhD thesis, University of Melbourne, 1995, p. 139). In this case, a late fifteenth-century manuscript was decorated in a style from a century before. For more, see Scott Gwara’s sales catalogue Enchiridion 19: Medieval Fragments for University Teaching & Research, where this leaf is item 1A.
Next time, we’ll journey to Montreal, Québec, where there are several collections of distinction.
MontRoyal

 

 

 

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Manuscript Road Trip, Canadian Edition: Nova Scotia

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

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

Before I catch a virtual ferry to Nova Scotia, I want to thank everyone who contacted me in the last few weeks with updates to my handlist of Canadian collections. Thanks to these comments and emails, ten collections can be added to the list:

Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, British Columbia)

Memorial University (St. John’s, Newfoundland)

The Univ. of Western Ontario (London, Ontario)

Library and Archives Canada (Ottawa, Ontario)

University of Ottawa (Ottawa, Ontario)

Ontario College of Art and Design (Toronto, Ontario)

Concordia University  (Montréal, Québec)

Jesuit Archives (Montréal, Québec)

Musée de l’Amérique française (Montréal, Québec)

The University of Montréal (Montréal, Québec)

According to Laurent Brun, St. Paul University and Dominican University College in Ottawa may have pre-1600 material, but that is still to be confirmed.

All of these updates will go into the next (online) edition of the Directory of Collections in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings. For a limited time, by the way, the latest version of the Directory is available as an open-access PDF here. Melissa Conway (my Directory co-author) and I are very grateful for these and any updates.

And now, on to beautiful Nova Scotia…

Canada Map

I have never been to Nova Scotia, but it is on my list of places to visit, in part because that island province and neighboring New Brunswick have the distinction of being home to the most dramatic tides in the world, at the Bay of Fundy. The  difference between low and high tide can be a whopping fifty feet, and is, I am told, a sight to see. Here’s a time-lapse video (credit to Kevin@Creativeimagery.ca) of the tide coming in and out at Hopewell Rocks, one of the most dramatic sites. Fortunately, you won’t find medieval manuscripts in the Bay of Fundy, and since that’s why we’re here, after taking a ferry from New Brunswick across the Bay, we’ll head south-east to Halifax, to the University of King’s College.

Originally established in Windsor (on the Bay of Fundy), King’s College is the oldest English university in Canada, founded by the Church of England in 1789. It should come as no surprise, then, that many of the medieval manuscripts at King’s have a firmly Anglican provenance. The University relocated to Halifax after a fire destroyed the main building in 1920; fortunately, the library’s medieval manuscripts were unharmed. These books were first catalogued by librarian Harry Piers in 1893, in the Catalogue of the Library of King’s College, Windsor, Nova Scotia. Piers describes seven manuscripts (pp. 458 and 459), though not entirely the same seven recorded by the de Ricci Census (II:2202) in 1935. Today there are a dozen pre-1600 manuscripts (with thanks to former King’s College Special Collection librarian Janet Hathaway for this handlist):

King's MM7

Univ. of King’s College, MM 7 (detail) (photo courtesy of UKC, Spec. Coll. and Archives)

MM 1 (Piers p. 458; Census no. 1): Biblical concordance, s. XIII. Given by T. B. Akins in 1890.

MM 2 (Piers p. 459; Census no. 5): Anglo-Norman chancery scroll, s. XIII. Given by T. B. Akins in 1890.

MM 3 (Piers p. 33 and p. 458; Census no. 4): “Paris Bible,” s. XIII. Given by Rev. Reginald Heber Bullock in 1860.

MM 4 (Piers p. 458; Census no. 2): Passion narratives, s. XIV, with illustrations of the evangelists. Given by King’s President George Mccauley (1836 – 1875).

MM 5 (Piers p. 458; Census no. 3): Breviary (formerly identified as a Missal), said to be from the Jesuit College in Louvain, s. XIV. Given by T. B. Akins in 1871.

MM 6 (not in Piers; Census no. 7): Sermons on the Blessed Sacrament, said to have been written in 1268 for the Dominicans in Cologne. Formerly owned by Rev. H. T. Kingdon. Given by Rev. J. R. deW. Cowie, before 1935. (see below for more on this manuscript)

MM 7 (not in Piers or the Census): Hours of the Virgin, s. XVex (detail at left). Formerly owned by T. B. Akins. Given by the Nova Scotia Historical Society in 1956.

MM 8 (Piers p. 459; Census no. 6): German almanac for 1483. given by T. B. Akins in 1871.

MM 9 (not in Piers or the Census): Lives of Theseus and Romulus, s. XVI. Given by T. b. Akins in 1871.

MM 10 (not in Piers or the Census): Paradisus Monacharum, et alia (in Spanish), date unspecified. Given by Joy (Morrison) Smith, wife of President Harry Smith (1963 – 1969).

MM 11 (not in Piers or the Census): Coptic manuscript of the Psalms, written in Ge’ez, date unspecified. Given by Prof. Kathleen Jaeger.

MM 12 (not in Piers or the Census): Scroll of Esther, date unspecified

For my money, one of the most interesting of these is MM 6, a collection of sermons said to have been written in 1268 for the Dominicans of Cologne, the sometime home of the great Dominican Thomas Aquinas, whose work may have influenced this collection (there is much work to be done on these sermons and this manuscript; students take note!!). The manuscript opens with two spectacular full-page diagrams explicating the benefits of the Sacrament. Such diagrams were common exegetical tools used by teachers and preachers alike to make abstract theological concepts more concrete. Both are depicted botanically, as trees with root, trunk, branches, and leaves in descending hierarchy as concepts are broken out in more detail. The diagram on the right explains the seven benefits of the Sacrament:

MM 6 1v-2

Univ. of King’s College, Manuscript MM 6, ff. 1v-2 (photo courtesy of University of King’s College, Archives & Special Collections, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada)

MM 6 1r detail

UKC, Manuscript MM 6, f. 1r (detail)

The manuscript was likely written somewhat later than 1268, perhaps during the fourteenth century. It is not clear how the date of 1268 came to be associated with the codex; it is recorded in an early-modern inscription on the first flyleaf (detail at right), but only a detailed examination of the manuscript would allow for a more accurate estimate of its date of origin. I’m also not entirely sure what is implied by the final phrase of the inscription, “Item Novum Testamentum”; there may be sermons on the New Testament in the manuscript in addition to those on the Sacrament.

It is also unclear how or when the manuscript crossed the ocean. What IS clear is that at some point in the mid-nineteenth century it came into the possession of Hollingworth Tully Kingdon (1836-1907), an Anglican Bishop. Kingdon was born and educated in England and came to Canada in 1881 to take up the Bishop Coadjutor position in Fredericton, New Brunswick. An ardent bibliophile, Kingdon in all likelihood brought the manuscript (and others) with him to Canada. It was certainly in his possession by 1889, when he referred directly to the codex in a sermon delivered in New York:

MM6 49

Univ. of King’s College, MM 6, f. 49 (photo courtesy of UKC, Spec. Coll.)

“There is in my possession a manuscript volume of sermons on the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. They were written by the Dominicans of Cologne in A. D. 1268 and bear internal evidence of the work of S. Thomas Aquinas who was lecturing at Cologne about that time…” (H. T. Kingdon, “The Reformation Period,” in The Church in the British Isles: Sketches of its Continuous History from the Earliest Times to the Restoration. Lectures Delivered in 1889 under the Auspices of the Church Club of New York (New York, 1894), p. 186)

As Kingdon was serving as Bishop Coadjutor, a young, equally book-loving King’s College alumnus named James Ratchford de Wolfe Cowie (1855 – 1935) was working towards his 1883 ordination as an Anglican Deacon; his first service was in Fredericton as well, where he served with Kingdon for several years before being sent to southern California as an Anglican missionary. When he returned to preach in New Brunswick (by 1901), he found that Kingdon had been promoted to full Bishop. They served together until Kingdon’s death in 1907.

Kingdon

Hollingworth Tully Kingdon (date unknown)

According to Kingdon’s Last Will and Testament (on file at the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, and I thank PANB Reference Services Librarian Katherine MacDonald for tracking down the document for me), Kingdon left his entire estate to his wife Anna, who outlived him by several years. The next known owner of the Cologne manuscript, however, was not Anna but Rev. Cowie. It seems likely that Kingdon gave the codex to Cowie sometime before his death, a rare gift that surely suggests they were close friends, having worked together for many years. Cowie donated MM 6 to his alma mater sometime before his own death in 1935.

Manuscripts MM 1, 7, 8, and 9 came to King’s through Thomas Beamish Akins (1809 – 1891), a Canadian attorney and local historian; among his published works was the first history of King’s College, written in 1869. He donated MM 8 and 9 to the College in 1871, MM 1 in 1890. After his death, most of his library was bequeathed to the Legal Library of the Nova Scotia Historical Society, which gave manuscript MM 7 to King’s in 1956.

Next time, we’ll visit Newfoundland to catch the first sunrise over the Atlantic.

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Manuscript Road Trip: O, Canada!

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

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

At long last, it’s time to get back on the virtual road, embarking on a tour of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in collections north of the 45th parallel.

And so begins the Manuscript Road Trip: Canadian Edition!

working-mapIn our road trip around the U.S., we’ve encountered pre-modern European manuscripts in 47 of the lower 48 states, plus Hawaii and Puerto Rico. There are some nice visualizations of the data compiled by myself and Melissa Conway here. We are still waiting to learn about even one manuscript in one public collection in North Dakota and/or Alaska!

Given the ubiquitous nature of early manuscripts in the southern half of North America, it should come as no surprise that there are plenty of early manuscripts in Canada, from Halifax all the way to Vancouver. And they’ve been there a long time.

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Northward ho!

According to McGill University curator Richard Virr, one of the first medieval manuscripts to have arrived in Canada was McGill MS 3, a Benedictional from Amiens. It was brought to Québec by Christopher Reiffenstein (ca. 1779 – 1840), a militia officer and businessman. After the end of what began as the War of 1812, Reiffenstein went into business as a retail merchant and, eventually, an auctioneer. He began by selling surplus war goods, but eventually transitioned to include art and books, mostly purchased in England.

Reiffenstein’s Benedictional was one of a handful of manuscripts included in an 1877 exhibit in Montreal, by which time it was part of the collection of George F. C. Smith (see Virr, 1992, p. 14). Smith loaned three ex-Reiffenstein volumes to the exhibit: the Benedictional was the earliest (Dunn-Lardeau/Virr, 2014, p. 159).

The exhibit was part of an international celebration commemorating the 400th anniversary of Caxton’s first printing. It opened with fifteen manuscripts from Canadian collections chosen as examples of book culture before printing. The catalogue, A Condensed Catalogue of Manuscripts, Books and Engravings on Exhibition at the Caxton Celebration (Montreal, 1877) is online here; the manuscripts are described on page 1 without any indication of their owners:


Caxton Catalogue p. 1Missals and MSS Prior to the Invention of Printing.

1. New Testament, In Latin, 8vo, double columns…circa 1250. This elaborate and beautiful specimen of calligraphy is done in colors, by a German scribe, in gothic character, on fine prepared vellum, and is undoubtedly of the period stated.

2. MS. on vellum, Benedictiones Dominicales…13th century. Highly illuminated in gold and colors.

3. Missal on vellum…(copied in 1746)…15th century

4. Elegantiarum, Laurentii Valle…circa 1430. A remarkably interesting and excessively rare work, entirely manuscript, Colored Initial letters. On vellum and paper.

5. Fragments of Illuminated Kalendar, on parchment,…circa. 15th century

6. A thin roll of Egyptian Papyrus

7. Leaves of a Tamil School Book of Palmetto leaf

8. Two Burmese MSS

9. An illuminated MS of the Koran in Arabic

10. A copic MS of the Gospel of St. John

11. Latin Breviary MS on vellum…circa 1350. An extremely rare and beautiful specimen.

12. Book of Hours, MS on vellum, in Latin and Dutch…1412

13. Page of a Breviary, on vellum…circa 1450

14. MS Book on Vellum, Illuminated…Liege 1501

15. Capitals from a Missal…16th century


The weekly Canadian Illustrated News reported extensively on the show (see Virr, 1992, note 17):

There were specimens of missals and manuscripts anterior to the invention of printing, such as a new Testament in Latin, of the date 1250, an elaborate and beautiful specimen of caligraphy done in colors, by a German scribe, on fine vellum, and undoubtedly of the age stated; of 1430 a remarkable interested and excessively rare manuscript, with colored initial letters, and on vellum and paper; a roll of Egyptian papyrus, a Tamil school book of palmetto, leaf, Burmese MSS, Captic and Arabic MSS, etc. (Canadian Illustrated News, 14 July 1877, p. 18)

Only two of the fifteen manuscripts have been positively identified: no. 2 (the Reiffenstein/Smith Benedictional, now McGill MS 3) and no. 3 (also at McGill). No. 4 (Lorenzo Valla’s Elegantiarum) was loaned by the University of Toronto but was destroyed by fire in 1890 (see comment from Scott Gwara below). The Benedictional was reproduced by the Canadian illustrated News on 28 July alongside manuscript no. 1, the thirteenth-century Bible described above:

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec

McGill MS 3 (left) and an unidentified Bible (right) [Canadian Illustrated News, 28 July 1877, p. 60]

At some point after the close of the exhibit, Smith donated all three volumes to the Diocesan Seminary of Montreal. From there, the Benedictional made its way to the library of the McGill University School of Theology before finally coming to rest in McGill’s Department of Special Collections (see Dunn-Lardeau/Virr, p. 159).

When Seymour de Ricci published his Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada (Bibliographical Society of America, 1935-40), he counted around eighty codices in six public Canadian collections (II:2201-2238): Edmonton, Alberta: St. Stephen’s College (one Greek codex); Halifax, Nova Scotia: King’s College (six codices and a legal scroll); Montreal, Québec: McGill University (around fifty codices and several dozen documents, leaves, and cuttings); Toronto, Ontario: Academy of Medicine (one fragmentary codex); Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology (eighteen codices and around two dozen leaves and cuttings); and the University of Toronto (five codices).The 1962 Faye & Bond Supplement added the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, which at the time held one codex and two dozen leaves.

Today, according to the Directory of Collections in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings (co-authored by myself and Melissa Conway), there are nearly 1,400 codices, leaves, and early documents in eighteen Canadian collections, scattered across Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Québec, and Saskatchewan:

Screenshot (10)

 

Manuscripts in Canada will be the subject of a one-day symposium on 18 March 2016 at the University of Victoria, a gathering I are very sorry to have to miss. I hope that anyone in attendance will let Melissa and myself know of collections of which we are not aware. In particular, we would very much like to know of any collections in the provinces and territories missing from the list above: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories, Nunavut, and Yukon.

Nova ScotiaNext time, we’ll catch a ferry to Nova Scotia to start our tour.

 

Works cited:

A Condensed Catalogue of Manuscripts, Books and Engravings on Exhibition at the Caxton Celebration (Montreal, 1877)

Richard Virr, “Behold this treasury of glorious things: the Montreal Caxton Exhibition of 1877,” Papers of the Bibliographical Society of Canada, Vol. 30 (1992), 7-20.

Dunn-Lardeau, Brenda and RichardVirr, “La redécouverte d’un exemplaire des heures enluminées de 1516 imprimées par Gilles Hardouin.” (Gutenberg-Jahrbuch, 2014), 144-170.

 

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Manuscript Road Trip: Introducing the Beauvais Missal!

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

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

I spent the weekend at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, attending the 8th Annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscripts in the Digital Age. The theme was “Picking up the Pieces,” devoted to fragments and fragmentology, and I was asked to present my digital reconstruction of the Beauvais Missal and discuss some of my initial findings. And here it is:

http://brokenbooks2.omeka.net

On the site, you will find records for each of the 94 known leaves of the Missal, links to brief summaries of my initial findings (in the Exhibit space), and a link out to the Broken Books Mirador manifest, the digital surrogate of the Beauvais Missal.

Ninety-four leaves located, 215 to go! I know they’re out there somewhere…

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Manuscript Road Trip: The Promise of 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

Last week, I traveled to the University of Leeds with 2,000 other medievalists from around the world to participate in the International Medieval Congress. This post is a somewhat-abbreviated version of the paper I gave on the last day of the Congress, titled “Fragments and Fragmentology in North America.”

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The corpus of manuscript leaves in North America presents problems and opportunities distinct from those facing and offered to other national collections, due to both the content of the corpus and the historical circumstances of its development. And I’m primarily going to be referring to whole, single leaves; cuttings and binding fragments such as those at right tell a very different story than the one you are about to hear. Examples of Binding FragmentsBinding fragments result from medieval and early modern recycling of worn or outdated manuscripts, not from a collector’s destructive whim. Manuscripts were being cut up “for pleasure and profit” (in the words of Christopher de Hamel) as early as the eighteenth century. Throughout the nineteenth century, collectible illuminated initials and miniatures were cut out close to the borders, the remnant text thrown out.  This practice resulted in sales and collections of  free-standing tightly-cropped initials, arranged cuttings adhered to highly-acidic paper, and elaborate collages such as the one shown at the left. IMC_2015_presentation Most collectors on both sides of the Atlantic were not particularly interested in text or context, only in the pictures.

Beginning in the early twentieth century, dealers began breaking books and selling them off page by page. Was this in response to demand from collectors or was it a profit-driven impulse? It’s unclear. What is clear is that during this period, dealers began to sell, and collectors began to buy, entire pages. The United States, with its new industry-fueled wealth, was a primary beneficiary of this flooded market. From Masters of Industry to small-town collectors, major museums to small colleges, bibliophiles in the United States were clamoring for matted and framed leaves, in particular leaves from Gothic Books of Hours and Italian choirbooks. Dealers saw no harm in destroying these manuscripts. It was an example of a market economy on one side, as demand drove prices up, and economies of scale on the other. Dealers knew they would make more money selling 250 leaves to 250 buyers than if they offered a whole codex to one buyer. As a result, today there are tens of thousands of single leaves in several hundred U.S. collections.

The publication of Seymour de Ricci’s 1935 Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada, its 1962 Supplement, and the Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings (co-authored by Melissa Conway and myself) give us three data points with which to analyze the development of the corpus of single leaves in the United States. For additional information about the Directory, see Melissa Conway and Lisa Fagin Davis, “The Directory of Institutions in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings: From its Origins to the Present, and its Role in Tracking the Migration of Manuscripts in North American Repositories,” Manuscripta 2013, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 165-181. The statistics and figures in the next few paragraphs are taken from that article.

In compiling our Directory, Melissa and I did not set out to produce a union catalogue of manuscripts, but rather a true census, a counting, with the goal of answering a question that many scholars have asked but no one had previously been able to answer, that is, just how many pre-1600 manuscripts ARE there in North America? And how has the landscape of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in North America changed since the publica­tion of the Census and the Supplement?

While a detailed history of the migration of early manuscripts to North America over the past two centuries has yet to be written, it is certain that by 1935, after the pub­lication of the de Ricci Census, about 7,900 codices and 5,000 individual manuscript leaves had made their way to the North American continent. In order to formulate a meaningful comparison with today’s holdings, however, it is necessary to remove from this total the number of manuscripts in private collections, because contemporary collectors are more hesitant than were collectors in the 1930s to publicize their collections. The number of manuscripts in public collections in 1935, then, was around 6,000 codices and 2,500 leaves. By 1962, the number of manuscripts in public collections totaled 8,000 codices and 3,000 leaves.

IMC_2015_presentation2As for today’s holdings, the current count is approximately 20,000 codices and 25,000 indi­vidual leaves—a total increase of 400% in fifty years.  The total number of codices in public collections has gone up two and a half times; by contrast, the number of leaves has mushroomed nearly nine times. In addition, the number of public collections has grown from 195 to 207 to 499. Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts can now be found in every state in the Union except for Alaska and North Dakota. The collections holding manuscripts today that were not in­cluded in either the Census or the Supplement represent 60% of the total, 300 out of 499. Between them, these “new” collections hold about 1,800 co­dices and 9,000 leaves, a lopsided statistic when compared to the rest of the collections that demonstrates the dependence of “new” collections on the cheaper, more plentiful mar­ket in single leaves. These mostly small institutions with small acquisitions budgets were able to take ad­vantage of the burgeoning market in single leaves to grow their teaching collections.

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This map above  shows the relative number of manuscripts in 2015 – that is, codices and leaves – in each state. Not surprisingly, the greatest holdings (the darkest shading) correspond with well-known repositories and academic institutions in the Northeast, the Great Lakes region, and California. The picture changes a bit when we look just at singles leaves (below).  Here we find in addition to the usual suspects leaf collections of distinction in the Midwestern states of Kansas, Missouri, and Texas, but especially Ohio, and if you go back and read this blogpost, you’ll understand why.

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No story of manuscript leaves in the United States would be complete without a discussion of Otto Frederick Ege, bibliophile and self-proclaimed biblioclast. Ege spent most of his career as a professor of art history at the Cleveland Museum of Art in Ohio. He was a collector of manuscripts, recorded in the Census, but he was also a bookdealer. He is best known for breaking apart manuscripts and early printed books in the 1930s and 1940s, selling them leaf by leaf at a massive profit. He wasn’t the first to do this of course; other dealers had figured out that economies of scale worked in their favor if they sold 250 leaves to 250 buyers instead of one manuscript to one buyer. Ege defended his “biblioclasm” with what he considered the noble goal of putting a little bit of the Middle Ages within the economic grasp of even the humblest collector or smallest institution.

In a 1938 article in a “hobbyist” journal called Avocations, Ege explained:

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Otto F. Ege, “I am a Biblioclast,” Avocations vol. I (March, 1938), pp. 516-18

“Book-tearers have been cursed and condemned, but have they ever been praised or justified?…Surely to allow a thousand people ‘to have and to hold’ an original manuscript leaf, and to get the thrill and understanding that comes only from actual and frequent contact with these art heritages, is justification enough for the scattering of fragments.  Few, indeed, can hope to own a complete manuscript book; hundreds, however, may own a leaf.” His actions may have been misguided, but he was correct in one important respect; small collections throughout the United States that could never have purchased entire codices are the proud possessors of significant teaching collections of medieval manuscript leaves.

Thanks to the work of scholars such as A. S. G. Edwards, Barbara Shailor, Virginia Brown, Peter Kidd, William Stoneman and others, as well as a recent monograph by Scott Gwara, several thousand leaves from several hundred manuscripts that passed through Ege’s hands can now be identified in at least 115 North American collections in 25 states. In other words, more than 10% of the entire corpus of single leaves in the United States can be traced back to Otto Ege.

Ege leaf in its distinctive matte (from the collection at Rutgers University; the leaf has since been removed from the matte)

Ege leaf in its distinctive matte (from the collection at Rutgers University; the leaf has since been removed from the matte)

Ege used the leaves of several dozen manuscripts to create thematic “portfolios,” for sale. In other words, he would take one leaf of this manuscript, one leaf of that one, one leaf from a third, and so on, and pile them up into a deck of manuscript leaves, each of which was from a different codex.  The leaves in these portfolios are always sequenced the same way. Number 5 in one portfolio comes from the same manuscript as Number 5 in every other portfolio of the same name. The most common of these portfolios are titled Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts; Original Leaves from Famous Bibles; and Original Leaves from Famous Books. The leaves were taped into custom mattes with a distinctive red-fillet border and Ege’s handwritten notes across the bottom, identified with Ege’s letterpress label, and stored in custom buckram boxes.

The leaves of some dismembered manuscripts were never used in portfolios but were distributed individually or in small groups, as gifts to friends or in small sales. Many portfolios are lost or have been broken up, their leaves sold individually. It is, however, usually possible to identify Ege leaves that aren’t in their original portfolios anymore, because of the distinctive mattes, inscriptions, or tape residue. Some of the manuscripts are themselves quite distinctive and easily recognizable, such as the late thirteenth-century Beauvais Missal.

A Digital Selection of Beauvais Missal Leaves

A Digital Selection of Beauvais Missal Leaves

This manuscript serves as a perfect example of just how great a loss is incurred when a codex is dismembered and its leaves scattered, but it also serves as a hopeful case study of the possibilities offered by recent developments in imaging and metadata standards, platforms, and interoperability. The Beauvais missal is a beauty, its numerous gilt initials with graceful, colorful tendrils extending into the margins easily recognizable. The manuscript was written in or near Beauvais, France around 1285 and was used early on at the cathedral there. We know this because of an inscription on a lost leaf, transcribed in a 1926 Sotheby’s auction catalogue. Peter Kidd recently discovered that the manuscript was purchased from Sotheby’s by none other than American industrialist William Randolph Hearst, who owned it until 1942 when he sold it through Gimbel Brothers to New York dealer Philip Duschnes, who cut it up and began selling leaves less than one month later. He passed the remnants on to Otto Ege, who scattered it through his usual means. The Beauvais Missal is number 15 in Ege’s “Fifty Original Leaves” set, but many leaves are known outside of his portfolios. I know of 92 leaves in permanent collections or that have come on the market recently, scattered across twenty-one states and five nations.

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Unlike well-known leaves such as those from the Beauvais Missal, most of the 25,000 single leaves in North American collections are neither catalogued nor digitized. If metadata standards for the electronic cataloguing of manuscript codices are in flux, the standards for cataloguing leaves and fragments are truly in their infancy. It is not easy to catalogue manuscript leaves, as it requires expertise in multiple fields including paleography, codicology, liturgy, musicology, and art history, among others. But leaves are easy to digitize, much easier than complete codices. They’re flat, with no bindings to damage, no need to use weights to keep the book open during imaging. A digitized leaf can be put online with minimal metadata and made instantly available for crowd-sourced cataloguing and scholarly use. Many U.S. collections are beginning to do just that.

With this growing corpus of digitized leaves comes the potential to digitally reconstruct dismembered manuscripts such as the Beauvais Missal. I have heard skeptics ask why such reconstructions are worthwhile. Does the world really NEED another mediocre mid-fifteenth-century Book of Hours from Rouen? What do we gain from piecing Humpty Dumpty together again? It’s a reasonable question. Many of the books broken by Ege and his peers were not exactly of great art historical or textual import. Because they are manuscripts, however, every one is unique and worthy of study. I would argue that in many cases, such as the Beauvais Missal, the whole is much more than the sum of its parts. A lone leaf of the Beauvais Missal that preserves the liturgy for the feasts of a few Roman Martyrs in late July isn’t going to tell us much that we don’t already know. But identify the immediately preceding leaf that preserves a rare liturgy for St. Ebrulf of Beauvais on July 26, and we’re starting to get somewhere. The liturgy of Beauvais begins to come into focus alongside the music and the art historical record. Even reconstructing those shabby fifteenth-century Books of Hours serves a valuable pedagogical purpose, on top of any textual and art historical gain there may be; there is no better way to teach your students about the structure and contents of a Book of Hours than by having them piece one back together.

I know of at least three incipient projects that hope to reverse the scourge of biblioclasm:

Manuscript-Link at the University of South Carolina is a repository of siloed images submitted by multiple collections that will be catalogued by the project’s Principal Investigators. Registered users will be able to form their own collections online and compare multiple leaves side-by-side in parallel windows.

The international and recently fully-funded Fragmentarium project (organized by the team that brought you the splendid e-Codices site) will focus on the massive collections of binding fragments found in European national libraries, the market in whole, single leaves having been in many ways a predominantly American phenomenon.

Most promising for the North American corpus, I think, is the Broken Books project at St. Louis University. Broken Books will use a highly sustainable model in which holding institutions will be responsible for data and image curation. The Broken Books platform, according to the project’s website, will “allow the canvases that hold the digital images of the relevant leaves or pages to be annotated and arranged, so that users can attach annotations, including cataloguing metadata, to individual images or to a whole leaf, with the goal of virtually reconstructing the original manuscript.” The Broken Books platform will use Shared Canvas technology compliant with the International Image Interoperability Framework (IIIF), in which structural and descriptive metadata about a digitized object can be standardized and made interoperable.

In other words, instead of storing images and data on a dedicated server (by definition of limited capacity), the Broken Books tool will use persistent URLs to retrieve images when called for into a IIIF-compliant viewer such as Mirador, where they can be annotated and arranged by the user. This model is particularly sustainable, as it puts the onus of image and data duration on the holding institution, where it should be. Such interoperability also carries with it an expectation of Creative Commons licensing, which is, after all, the wave of the future.

Imaging and data platforms are in development for all three projects and metadata standards are being established by teams of digital humanists, librarians, and manuscript scholars. For the purposes of such projects, the Ege leaves present a perfect test case. Working with the portfolios alone, it will be possible to easily reconstruct at least a portion several dozen Ege manuscripts. Using the Mirador viewer, Ben Albritton at Stanford University has just unveiled a case study that models how such digital reconstructions might work:

Reconstruction of Ege

Reconstruction of Ege “Fifty Original Leaves” MS 1

Albritton has reconstructed a portion of Ege’s “Fifty Original Leaves” MS 1 (a twelfth-century glossed Bible from Switzerland), comprised of leaves at Stanford, the University of South Carolina, the University of Mississippi, and others. The viewer uses PURLs to retrieve the images in the correct order when called for, pulling them into a IIIF-compliant viewer, in this case, Mirador. As an added bonus, the primary text has been transcribed using the T-Pen annotator (let’s hear it for interoperability!). Click on the speech bubble in the lower left corner of the viewer to see the annotations.

The Broken Books platform will function along similar lines and will also  include metadata for each leaf. I’ve recently begun working with the Broken Books project, using the Beauvais Missal as a case study to help establish a metadata and authority structure. I hope to be able to debut the reconstruction using the Broken Books platform later this year.

In the meantime, there are several tools already in existence that can be used for this kind of work. I’m using an Omeka exhibit site as a workspace while the Broken Books platform is in development. The Omeka environment allows me to associate Dublin Core metadata with images of recto and verso in a single record and then easily put the leaves in their correct order. While this is a workable temporary solution, the Dublin Core metadata structure is somewhat inflexible and doesn’t really have room for all of the fields one would want in a full-scale Fragmentology project.

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This is not a public site, by the way, because I do not yet have the rights to use some of these images for anything other than personal research.

I’m using a different tool to recreate the original bifoliate quire structure of the manuscript. Even though the Beauvais Missal has no foliation, reconstructing the signatures is possible because there are catchwords at the end of each quire. The gathering shown below was reconstructed using the Collation Visualization generator developed by Dot Porter at the University of Pennsylvania.

Reconstructed Quire of the Beauvais Missal

Reconstructed Quire of the Beauvais Missal

This brilliant tool combines a manuscript’s collation statement with PURLs of digital images to generate conjoint bifolia, as if the manuscript had been virtually disbound. I’m using the tool to reverse the process; once I know the order of leaves in a particular quire, I can use the Generator to digitally reunite formerly-conjoint leaves from disparate collections. For example, let’s look more closely at the second bifolium, outlined in yellow above. These leaves were originally conjoint, but are not consecutive.

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The leaf on the left belongs to a private collector in Monaco, while its formerly conjoint leaf belongs to Smith College in Massachusetts. These two leaves haven’t seen each other since they were sliced apart in 1942.

So this is the situation in North America. We have more than 25,000 single leaves in several hundred collections. Some are beautifully digitized and skillfully catalogued. Others are catalogued incorrectly; some turn out to be printed facsimiles; others sit in a drawer, unknown and waiting. Digitization and metadata standards are still being established. We have our work cut out for us. But the promise of these projects is great. Historical circumstance has deposited a well-defined and cohesive corpus of leaves in the United States and Canada. Multiple leaves from dozens – perhaps hundreds – of manuscripts can easily be identified for reconstruction. We just need images and data, and a place to put them.

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Manuscript Road Trip: A DH Detour

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

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

I apologize for my prolonged absence. It has been a very busy time for me for the last few months, but things at the Medieval Academy are slowing down a bit as we enter the summer months. I’ll get back to writing about North American manuscript collections next time. Today, I want to take a detour from my road trip and drive around the neighborhood of best-practices and Digital Humanities.

Two online resources that I use often and steer my students toward have disappeared in recent weeks. The Harry Ransom Center Fragment Project, an online repository of images and associated metadata for hundreds of manuscript fragments found in early bindings at the University of Texas at Austin, has been taken down due to the non-renewal of the staffer who was producing what was turning out to be a fruitful project. The other was a very important and otherwise unpublished resource for identifying the origin of Books of Hours that went dark following the death of the Principal Investigator, Erik Drigsdahl. Both projects are partially retrievable through the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine, the second more effectively than the first, but this situation demonstrates why the best DH projects take sustainability and long-term digital archiving seriously.

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In March of 2014, when I wrote about early manuscripts in Texas, I held up the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin as a model of digitization, metadata structure, and crowd-sourced cataloguing:

In addition to digitizing its codices, the Ransom Center has been engaged for some time in an innovative crowd-sourcing cataloguing project, posting images of fragments recovered from bindings in their collection on a Flickr Photostream and asking the hivemind to help identify and catalogue them.

This project is a spectacularly successful example of how social media and web networks can be used to tap into the collective expertise of scholars worldwide. The image collection not only demonstrates the myriad ways manuscripts were recycled as binding waste but is also yet another example of why it is always worthwhile to conduct a survey of the early bindings in your Special Collections library. The Ransom Center undertook just such a survey and found a treasure trove of hundreds of fragments – some nearly 1,000 years old – hiding in the stacks.

I’m sorry to report that while the University’s codices are still accessible online, the Fragment Project’s Flickr site has been taken down because Micah Erwin, the staffer who spear-headed the project, did not have his contract renewed (more about that here).  Personnel issues aside, the fact that the images are no longer online is a great loss to scholarship, to students, and to the manuscript community. This collection of images and associated metadata was a great example of why surveys of early bindings are worthwhile, regardless of how you may feel about the effectiveness of crowd-sourced cataloguing. Micah had made several important discoveries, finding Carolingian fragments, bits of early music and liturgy, excerpts from important texts, and medieval documents, all hiding in HRC’s early bindings. He had presented the project at conferences and symposia around the country, and scholars were just beginning to make use of the images and Micah’s careful metadata. I am hopeful that at the very least the University will decide to host the images and metadata in some format and that the hundreds of images have been archived.

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With the death of Erik Drigsdahl in March 2015, the field of manuscript studies lost a great scholar who had produced an important body of work. One of his greatest contributions to the field was his online Book of Hours tutorial, an introduction to working with and understanding Books of Hours that included an updated and expanded list of the famed (and flawed) Falconer Madan Tests for Localization (F. Madan, “The Localization of Manuscripts,” in H. W. Carless Davis, ed., Essays in History Presented to Reginald Lane Poole (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1927), pp. 5-29). This refers to the strategy of using the Prime and None antiphon and chapter reading incipits from the Hours of the Virgin to help determine the locale for which a particular Book of Hours was made. Falconer Madan published dozens of such combinations; Drigsdahl expanded Madan’s list to include hundreds. Much of his work was otherwise unpublished, and with the expiration of the domain registration (chd.dk), Drigsdahl’s site is now offline. Fortunately, the pages were last backed-up to the Internet Archive’s Way Back Machine on April 6 and can be accessed here, and although this is essentially a screenshot it does preserve Erik’s research. Peter Kidd reports that he will soon be meeting with Erik’s executor in hopes of reviving the site on a different server.

These are cautionary tales of which anyone involved in Digital Humanities should take note. In the first case, lack of institutional commitment and support led to the demise of a very worthwhile project. The second case begs the question, what happens to our digital footprint after we die? The Internet Archive, through the Way Back Machine, preserves snapshots of sites for posterity, and we are all learning to save our work to The Cloud, but these are, in the great scheme of things, short-term solutions. Every Digital Humanities project must include plans for sustainability, long-term viability, and archiving as part of initial planning and strategy.

A recent study by Valerie Johnson and David Thomas of digital projects funded by the New Opportunities Fund in the UK found that of the 155 projects granted support between 1998 and 2003 (at a cost of £55 million), “twenty-five can no longer be found, while there have been no changes or enhancements to a further eighty-three. Of the 155, there are only thirty which have been enhanced or added to since the launch. So in less than ten years, sixteen per cent of resources have been lost and fifty-three per cent have, at best, stagnated.” (Valerie Johnson and David Thomas, “Digital Information: ‘Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom…’ Is Digital a Cultural Revolution?,” in The Sage Handbook of Historical Theory, edited by Nancy Partner and Sarah Foot (London: Sage Publications, 2013), 466-467). These are alarming statistics that are almost certainly representative of the larger problem confronting Digital Humanities.

Univ. of Texas, Austin, Harry Ransom Center, Incun. 1498 L635p (spine)

Univ. of Texas, Austin, Harry Ransom Center, Incun. 1498 L635p (spine)

I have no idea what the “permanent” long-term digital archiving solution is going to turn out to be. We already know it isn’t the Cloud or tape or CDs or floppy disks or punch-cards. Data migration and storage upgrades are a constant necessity, as technologies change at a faster and faster pace. The Internet Archive, which is a good model for best-practices, recommends full data migration and storage upgrades every ten years. In the meantime, I’m saving this blog to my external drive, storing files in the Cloud, saving to PDF, and printing hardcopy for storage in files and binders. In the long run, I’m not so much worried about the survival of the rare books and manuscripts that are the primary subject of my blog. They’re fairly sturdy and have managed to survive fire and flood and rodents and pillaging and censorship and ocean voyages and centuries of use. Even fragments and single leaves – broken and cut by dealers and collectors – are long-term survivors, as the HRC Fragment Project demonstrated. Printed books on paper can survive for hundreds of years, and manuscripts handwritten on parchment are built to last for a millennium. It’s the digital word we have to worry about.

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