Tag Archives: Beauvais Missal

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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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




Filed under Medieval Manuscripts, Otto F. Ege, Uncategorized

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.”


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.


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.


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:


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.


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. [update: as of 2020, this project is defunct]

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.

IMC_2015_presentation4 IMC_2015_presentation3

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.


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.


Filed under Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscript Road Trip: Reconstructing 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

If you’ve been travelling with me on this virtual road trip around the United States, you have almost certainly come to know the dismembered beauty known as The Beauvais Missal. I’ve mentioned it many times and shown you several different leaves found in various collections. And I’ve ruminated about the possibility of digitally reassembling this masterpiece of thirteenth-century illumination. Well, it’s time to stop dreaming and start doing.

Cleveland Museum of Art, ACC. 1982.141 verso

Cleveland Museum of Art, Acc. 1982.141 verso

Working with the “Broken Books” project at St. Louis University, I have begun a digital reconstruction of the Beauvais Missal. The “Broken Books” project will result in the development of a platform for reconstructing broken books as well as the establishment of a metadata structure designed specifically for manuscript fragments and leaves. My Beauvais Missal project will serve as one of several case studies in the project’s early stages.

The Beauvais Missal (also known as the Hangest Missal) has been much studied, by scholars such as Barbara Shailor, Christopher de Hamel, Anthony Edwards, Alison Stones, and Peter Kidd, among others. You’d think there couldn’t possibly be anything more to discover about it. But for all the times it’s been mentioned in print or online (try Googling “Beauvais Missal”), there is still much to learn about its contents and history. I’m working on the former, and Peter Kidd has recently filled in some of the missing pieces of the latter, allowing us to reconstruct much of the manuscript’s pre-biblioclastic journey; see his recent blogposts here and here.

To sum up:

  1. The manuscript was written for the use of Beauvais in the late thirteenth century and is said to have originally been the third of a three-volume set. The codex originally comprised 309 leaves. No one has ever identified the other volumes of the set.
  2. Given to the Beauvais Cathedral in 1356 by Robert de Hangest, a former canon, to ensure that his death would be commemorated every year. We only know this because the donation inscription was transcribed by later catalogues; the leaf preserving the inscription was lost when the manuscript was dismembered.
  3. The manuscript is recorded in the Beauvais Cathedral library as late as the seventeenth century. It is unclear when the Beauvais Cathedral library was dispersed, but, like many early French libraries, the collection was probably broken up soon after the French Revolution.
  4. Owned by Didier Petit de Meurville (1793-1873), of Lyon; his sale, 1843, lot 354;
  5. Owned by four generations of the Brölemann family: Henry-Auguste Brölemann (1775-1854) of Lyon; his son Emile-Thierry Brölemann (1800-1869); his son Arthur-Auguste Brölemann (1826-1904); his sister Albertine Brölemann (1831-1920); her daughter Blanche Bontoux (1859-1955), sold by her at Sotheby’s, 4 May 1926, lot 161, to;
  6. William Permain, as agent for;
  7. William Randolph Hearst (1863-1951);
  8. Sold from his collection in October 1942 through Gimbel’s NY, to;
  9. NY bookdealer Philip Duschnes (1897-1970), who cut it up and sold many of its leaves to;
  10. Otto F. Ege (1888-1951). Ege went to on give away or sell many leaves of the manuscript. Single leaves of the Beauvais Missal are best known as No. 15 in the “Fifty Original Leaves of Medieval Manuscripts” portfolios, of which forty were issued.
Harvard Univ., Houghton Library MS Type 956 2 verso (left) reunited with its originally consecutive leaf, sold at Christie's on 4 Sept. 2013, lot 262 1 (at right). Note the gold offset in the upper gutter of the Houghton leaf, matching the decoration in the upper left corner of the Christie's leaf.

Harvard Univ., Houghton Library MS Typ 956 2 verso (left) reunited with its originally consecutive leaf, sold at Christie’s on 4 Sept. 2013, lot 262 1 (at right). Note the gold offset in the upper right corner of the Houghton leaf, matching the decoration in the upper left corner of the Christie’s leaf.

I’ve made a lot of progress already, identifying the contents of more than 80 known leaves, pairing up consecutive leaves, reconstructing quire structure. There are no folio numbers, but the contents are in liturgical (calendrical) order. The trick is identifying the feastday if there are no rubrics. Liturgy, it turns out, is quite Google-able. In addition, the gold decoration sometimes leaves mirror-image offsets on formerly-consecutive leaves, where the leaves were pressed together during the centuries when the book lay closed (example above).

I’m not quite ready to share all of my observations about the manuscript, but one thing is clear from the work I’ve already done on the contents of each leaf: the Beauvais Missal was a summer volume, preserving Mass texts and chant for feasts falling between the week after Easter and the end of November. The manuscript also included a calendar, a section of special masses, and the Canon of the Mass (whose leaves have only fifteen lines of text as opposed to the twenty-one lines elsewhere in the manuscript; see the Cleveland Museum of Art leaf above).

The virtual reconstruction of this manuscript is of course only possible because of recent advances in the field of digital humanities, in particular database structure, image annotation, and the encoding and interoperability of both.

Priest praying over the Host (Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Gallery, Acc. 1993.16 recto, detail)

Priest praying over the Host (Oberlin College, Allen Memorial Art Gallery, Acc. 1993.16 recto, detail)

But it is the very materiality of medieval manuscripts that makes them so magical. As anyone who has touched a 1,000-year-old manuscript can attest, knowing that you are reading a page written, held, read, and passed on by generations of humans is an extraordinary experience. As manuscript scholars and digital humanists, we should never lose sight of the ultimate, essential reality: these are books, meant to be touched and read and handled (unless, of course, a curator or conservator decides otherwise). A digital surrogate can only take us so far.

Priest saying Mass (Cleveland Museum of Art, ACC. 1982.141 verso, detail)

Priest saying Mass (Cleveland Museum of Art, ACC. 1982.141 verso, detail)

A digital image can’t tell you how each side of the parchment feels, it can’t show you how to definitively distinguish the hair side from the flesh side, a distinction of critical importance for understanding the structure of a medieval manuscript. Sometimes images are cropped, because the photographer doesn’t know that the margins of the leaf may be just as important as the text; in the case of the Beauvais Missal, uncropped edges may include important physical clues about the binding structure, such as sewing holes or evidence of repairs. Effaced inscriptions or annotations often can’t be read in a standard image and need to be examined in situ, using multi-spectral imaging techniques if you’re lucky enough to have access to such equipment. These are just a few examples of the kind of evidence that only a physical examination can uncover. In order to completely understand the original structure and binding and sequence of the leaves in the Beauvais Missal, I need to study as many leaves as possible in person.

And so a few weeks ago I embarked on an actual – rather than a virtual – road trip, visiting twelve of the fifteen Beauvais Missal leaves currently residing in Ohio. It was a whirlwind tour as I visiting eleven collections in four days, but I didn’t need much time with each leaf. I put a thousand miles on my rental car, driving from Cleveland to Columbus to Toledo before getting back to my day job and heading for the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America at the University of Notre Dame. All of that driving was well worth it. I saw several leaves I hadn’t known about, took high-resolution images of leaves for which I didn’t have good images already, saw old friends, and got to know collections that were new to me.

Ecclesia and Synagoga (Cleveland Museum of Art, ACC. 1982.141 verso, detail)

Ecclesia and Synagoga (Cleveland Museum of Art, ACC. 1982.141 verso, detail)

I saw the highlights of the manuscript on my first day. The 1926 Sotheby’s catalogue describes the Missal as having four historiated initials. Three are in north-east Ohio: two on a leaf at the Cleveland Museum of Art (above and at right) and one on a leaf at the Allen Art Gallery at Oberlin. The fourth, probably from the Te Igitur section of the Canon, is lost. It is no co-incidence that so many leaves of the manuscript, including both surviving historiated leaves, can today be found in Ohio, since that state was Otto Ege’s home turf.

Over the next few days, I visited Kenyon College, the Cleveland Public Library, a private collection in Oberlin, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Ohio State University, the University of Ohio, and the Toledo Museum of Art. I had to skip a few Ohio collections for want of time, so I chose not to visit collections whose leaves had already been photographed at high-resolution: Case Western Reserve University, Denison University, and the Cincinnati Public Library. My thanks to all of the librarians and curators who so generously shared their material with me.

Two Ohio collections with Ege material are particularly noteworthy: The Rowfant Club in Cleveland and the Lima Public Library. These collections could not be more different – an urban bibliophilic men’s club and a small public library in the middle of farm country – and yet both institutions were important to Ege.

Beauvais Missal leaf, Rowfant Club, Cleveland

Beauvais Missal leaf, Rowfant Club, Cleveland

In 1940, Ege was elected an honorary member of the Rowfant Club, and he probably donated their Beauvais Missal leaf at some point in the 1940s. The leaf at the Rowfant Club has been hiding in plain sight for decades, prominently displayed in a custom pivoting wall-mount in the doorway of the main meeting room (at left). The bookcases along the walls are filled with tall candlesticks, of great significance to the members. When a gentleman joins the Rowfant Club, he selects a candlestick to serve as his totem throughout his life at the club. It serves as his placecard at dinner and represents him in absentia. When he dies, the members gather to memorialize their departed friend, lighting and snuffing his candle before setting it upon a high shelf in perpetual remembrance.

Otto F. Ege's Rowfant Club candlestick, as reproduced in the Club's Candlestick Book.

Otto F. Ege’s Rowfant Club candlestick, as reproduced in the Club’s Candlestick Book.

Ege’s candlestick, of his own design, is shown at right.

Ege’s relationship with the Lima Public Library was of a fiscal nature. He worked out an arrangement with the Library whereby they would act as his local agent, selling medieval manuscript leaves on his behalf and keeping a portion of the proceeds to benefit their Staff Loan Fund. This arrangement lasted for several decades, to the benefit of all parties. During my morning in Lima, the librarian very kindly showed me several thick folders of correspondence between Ege and the Library stretching across decades. I was very excited to find this very early reference to the Beauvais Missal, a letter to the Lima librarian dated 1 October 1942 in which Ege writes, “You may have expected nine new items, the FINEST, Beauvais, France 1285 (will be sent shortly)…”

Lima Public Library, 1 Oct. 1942 correspondence between Otto F. Ege and librarian Mrs. Silver.

Lima Public Library, 1 Oct. 1942 correspondence between Otto F. Ege and the Lima librarian.

This letter (shown at left) was written several weeks BEFORE Duschnes bought and dismembered the manuscript, suggesting that he and Ege decided in advance to buy, and to break, the Beauvais Missal. And now, seventy-three years later, it’s time to put it back together.

[note: the following paragraph and the list below have been updated as of 15 July 2015]

So far, I’ve assembled images and metadata for 93 leaves (some now lost), representing twenty-two states and six countries. Several of the leaves in private hands were brought to my attention by Peter Kidd, to whom I am most grateful. I’m happy to share my handlist here – the largest list of Beauvais Missal leaves ever compiled:

Beauvais Missal Leaves in the United States

Beauvais Missal Leaves in the United States

United States

AZ           Phoenix                  Phoenix Public Library

CA           Los Angeles          [private collection]

CO          Boulder                  Univ. of Colorado

CT           Hartford                 Wadsworth Athenaeum

CT           New Haven            Yale University (2 leaves)

FL                                          [private collection] (2 leaves)

FL            St. Petersburg       Museum of Fine Arts

IN           Bloomington           Lilly Library, Indiana University

IN           Indianapolis            Indianapolis Museum of Art

KY           Louisville                The University of Louisville

MA         Amherst                 Univ. of Massachusetts, Amherst

MA         Boston                   Boston Public Library (2 leaves)

MA         Cambridge             Houghton Library, Harvard Univ. (2 leaves)

MA         Northampton         Smith College

MA         Northampton        Smith College Museum of Art

MA         Wellesley             Wellesley College (2 leaves)

MD         Bethesda             Private Collection

MI          East Lansing        Michigan State Univ.

MI          Kalamazoo          Western Michigan Univ.

MN        Minneapolis         Univ. of Minnesota

NC          Greensboro       UNC-Greensboro

NH          Hanover             Dartmouth College

NJ           New Brunswick  Rutgers University

NJ           Newark               Newark Public Library

NY          Albany                 State Library of New York

NY          Buffalo                 Buffalo and Erie County Public Library

NY          Hamilton              Colgate Univ., Picker Art Gallery

NY          New York            Metropolitan Museum of Art

NY          New York            Morgan Library

NY          Rochester           Rochester Institute of Technology

NY          Rochester           Sibley Music Library, Eastman School of Music (2 leaves)

NY          Stony Brook        SUNY Stony Brook

OH          Athens                 Ohio University

OH          Bath                     Private Collection

OH          Cincinnati            Cincinnati Public Library

OH          Cleveland            Case Western Reserve University

OH          Cleveland            Cleveland Museum of Art

OH          Cleveland            Cleveland Public Library (2 leaves)

OH          Cleveland            Rowfant Club

OH          Columbus            The Ohio State Univ.

OH          Granville              Denison University

OH          Kent                      Kent State University

OH          Kenyon                 Kenyon College

OH          Lima                     Lima Public Library

OH          Oberlin                 Allen Memorial Art Museum

OH          Oberlin                 Robert and Gina Lodge

OH          Toledo                  Toledo Museum of Art

PA          Bryn Athyn            Glencairn Museum (2 leaves)

RI            Providence           Rhode Island School of Design

SC           Columbia             Univ. of South Carolina

TN          Memphis               Rhodes College (2 leaves)

VA           Great Falls            Private Collection (formerly Charles Edwin Puckett, Bookseller)

VA          Roanoke               Hollins Univ. (2 leaves)

WA         Seattle                  Univ. of Washington


ONT       Toronto                Art Gallery of Ontario

ONT       Toronto                Ontario College of Art and Design

ONT       Toronto                Univ. of Toronto

SASK      Saskatchewan   Univ. of Saskatchewan


Christopher de Hamel

[Private collection outside of London] (sold Sotheby’s London 7/10/2012, lot 2a)

[Private collection in Yorkshire, RMGYMss]

[Private collection]


[Private collection]


[Private collection] (three leaves, bought at: Christie’s 09/04/2013, lot 262, no. 3; PBA Galleries, Auction 540, lot 200; and Mackus Company)


Oslo       Schoyen MS 222 (2 leaves)

As many as thirty leaves are known but untraced, including:

Christie’s 01/30/1980, lot 212

Christie’s, 06/25/1997, lot 16

Christie’s 09/04/2013, lot 262, nos. 1 and 2 (ex-Vershbow, later Pirages)

Bauman Rare Books

Bruce Ferrini Rare Books, Akron, Ohio, Catalogue 1 (1987), nos. 48-49 (2 leaves)

Endowment for Biblical Research, Boston University

Mackus Company, bookseller (1 leaf)

Maggs, London, Bulletin 11 (1982), no. 43 

Quaritch, cat. 1270 (2000), nr. 79

Sotheby’s London, 11/26/1985, lot 61 (calendar leaf)

Sotheby’s London 12/5/1994, lot 4

Sotheby’s London 6/19/2001, lot 9

Also lost are Beauvais Missal leaves from twelve of Ege’s “50 Original Leaves” portfolios, numbered sets 1, 3, 4 (this set belongs to the Cleveland Institute of Art but is lacking its Beauvais Missal leaf), 7, 14, 18, 20, 21, 26, 31, 33, and 39.

I don’t have images of all of these untraced leaves, so it’s possible that some of these references are to the same leaf sold again. It’s been said that there is a leaf on the wall at the University Club in Chicago, but the staff of the Club assures me that even if there once was a leaf in their art collection, it is no longer there.

I hope to have a working online prototype of the digital surrogate by year’s end. I now appeal to my readers to help me find additional leaves. Here’s how to recognize them:

Typical Missal page (Case Western Reserve University, Ege MS 15 verso)

Typical Missal page (Case Western Reserve University, Ege MS 15 verso)

Typical Canon page (Cleveland Public Library MS Ege 15 verso)

Typical Canon page (Cleveland Public Library MS Ege 15 verso)

Typical Missal page with music (Michigan State Univ., Mapcase MSS 325, no. 2 recto)

Typical Missal page with music (Michigan State Univ., Mapcase MSS 325, no. 2 recto)

In addition to the stylistic elements, which are certainly distinctive (in particular the leafy, pointed extensions into the margins), you can identify leaves of the Beauvais Missal by their dimensions. The leaves are written in two columns of 15 or 21 lines (or ten staves of music) per page, and the dimensions are around 290 x 200 mm (if untrimmed) with a written space of 200 x 135 mm. I am certain there are more leaves out there. If you think (or know) you’ve got one, or know of any I’ve missed, please contact me at LFD@TheMedievalAcademy.org!


Filed under Medieval Manuscripts, Otto F. Ege

Manuscript Road Trip: The Jersey Turnpike

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

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

Remember last time when I said we’d go to the Jersey Shore? I lied. There are no medieval manuscripts on the Jersey Shore. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, I highly recommend a visit to Asbury Park. But if you want manuscripts? Stay on the New Jersey Turnpike, the well-travelled and beloved thoroughfare that runs up the middle of the state. It just wouldn’t be a roadtrip without it.


We’ll start by getting off at Exit 8 and heading west into Princeton, where we will find one of the largest collections of medieval manuscripts in the U.S. at Princeton University. According to their website, the Manuscripts Division of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library holds “172 [medieval and Renaissance manuscripts] in the Robert Garrett Collection, 58 in the Grenville Kane Collection, 19 in the Robert Taylor Collection, and 201 in the growing Princeton Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. In addition, there are a number of manuscripts in the Cotsen Library, other manuscripts in other manuscript series or bound with printed books; more than 250 separate miniatures, leaves, and cuttings; and about 100 manuscripts in the Scheide Library.” (the Scheide Library is a private collection housed on the Princeton campus; the collector, William H. Scheide, passed away in November 2014)

Le roman de la rose (Garrett MS. 126, f. 1) (Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library)

Le roman de la rose (Garrett MS. 126, f. 1) (Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library)

Curator Don Skemer’s detailed and gorgeous catalogue of the Princeton collection reminds us why print catalogues are still worth publishing, especially when augmented by a significant online presence. Many of these manuscripts have been at least partially digitized, with images and metadata available through the Index of  Christian Art and ARTstor (both paywalled, but many major research libraries are subscribers to one or the other). If you don’t have access to either of these subscription databases, you can find links to a growing collection of digitized manuscripts in Princeton’s Digital Library. Best of all (and here I may be accused of burying the lead), the Checklist of Western Medieval, Byzantine, and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library and the Scheide Library includes links to thousands of images.

Princeton Univ. MS 51, f. 61 (Lambach, s. XII 3/4) (Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library)

Charlemagne and Alcuin, drawn by Gottschalk of Lambach (Princeton Univ. MS 51, f. 61 (Lambach, s. XII 3/4), Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library)

The miniature below, from Garrett MS. 48, struck me not only because of the elaborate diapered backgrounds in each of the four miniatures but in particular because of the lovely image in the lower margin of Christ learning to walk, toddling towards his mother’s outstretched arms (detail below).

Book of Hours, Use of Paris, ca. 1420–1430, France (Paris) (Garrett MS. 48, f. 1) (Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library)

Book of Hours, Use of Paris, ca. 1420–1430, France (Paris) (Garrett MS. 48, f. 1) (Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library)

Garrett MS. 48, f. 1 (detail, lower margin)

Garrett MS. 48, f. 1 (detail, lower margin)

Here are a few other highlights:

Garrett MS. 125 (Chrétien de Troyes, Le chevalier au lion and other French texts) (NW France, s. XIIIex)

Garrett MS. 158 (Giovanni Marcanova [ Collectio antiquitatum ]) (Italy (probably Bologna), 1471 (?) or after 1473)

Garrett MS. 43 (Benedictional written in late Carolingian minuscule and illuminated, probably at Lorsch Abbey, in the second quarter of the eleventh century)

Garrett MS. 126  (Le Roman de la rose, Paris, mid-14th century)

Keep an eye on Don Skemer’s blog for additional information about the collection. Manuscripts are held by other collections in Princeton, including the Princeton Theological Seminary (an institution independent of the University which holds, among other items, several examples of Oxyrhynchus papyri) and the Princeton University Art Museum (which holds, among other items, one of the scrolls edited in my forthcoming book). An Advanced Search in the Museum collection for “Classification = Manuscripts” and “Department = Prints and Drawings” will bring up most of the manuscripts and cuttings.

East to the beach or West to the manuscripts? Decisions, decisions...

East to the shore or West to the manuscripts? Decisions, decisions…

Now it’s back to the Turnpike, continuing north to Exit 9. If you need a beach break, turn right and go through East Brunswick towards Asbury Park. If you want some more manuscripts, turn westward and stop off at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.

Rutgers University is home to several dozen leaves from manuscripts dismembered by our old friend Otto Ege. These leaves were the inspiration for one of the first, and still seminal, studies of Ege and his biblioclastic ways, Barbara Shailor’s “Otto Ege: his manuscript fragment collection and the opportunities presented by electronic technology” in The Book as Art, Literature and History (New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers Universities Libraries, c2003), available online here. The manuscripts are all accessible on Digital Scriptorium.

Beauvais Missal (Rutgers Univ., Special Collections, ND3375.F889, verso)

Beauvais Missal (Rutgers Univ., Special Collections, ND3375.F889, verso)

Just 1.5 miles up George St. is the New Brunswick Theological Seminary.  Among the printed books in the Gardner A. Sage library is a three-volume hybrid set of the works of St. Ambrose, the first (and probably the second) volume from 1516. The third volume is an incunable printed in Basel by Johann Amerbach in 1492. Conservation of the books yielded three binding fragments, since removed and housed separately. The first was from Giraldus Cremonensis’ Latin translation of Aristotle’s Meteora (Book II). The second volume contained a scrap of an Old French translation of the Book of Judges (20:23 – 21:7) and the third volume around 200 lines of a unique Old French Life of St. Andrew.  Both Old French fragments date from the early thirteenth century. For more, see Gerald A. Bertin and Alfred Foulet, “The Acts of Andrew in Old French Verse: The Gardner A. Sage Library Fragment (PMLA 81 (1966), 451-454) and Gerald A. Bertin, “The Book of Judges in Old French prose : the Gardner A. Sage Library fragment” (Romania 90 (1969), 121-131).

Next time, we’ll visit the Big Apple. Take the Turnpike to Exit 18W, cross the Hudson River, and meet me in Manhattan. But you’ll want to make one last stop before you get stuck in Bridge traffic…Screen shot 2014-12-18 at 9.40.25 AM





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Manuscript Road Trip: Sweet Home Alabama (and Georgia too)

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 we leave Florida for Georgia and Alabama, I want to call your attention to a very exciting and important discovery made by Peter Kidd and discussed in his recent blogpost. He has discovered that the last person to own the Beauvais Missal before it was cut up and sold piecemeal was none other than William Randolph Hearst.

Tampa, Museum of Fine Arts, 1979-11-1 recto

The Beauvais Missal: Tampa, Museum of Fine Arts, 1979-11-1 recto

This information fills in an important gap in our previous knowledge about the manuscript’s history between its late-medieval use at the Cathedral of St-Pierre in Beauvais and the twentieth-century distribution of its leaves by Otto F. Ege. According to Kidd’s  research, Hearst purchased the manuscript in 1926 and sold it through Gimbel Brothers in November 1942. Since leaves of the Missal were offered by New York dealer and Ege-collaborator Philip Duschnes that same month, it seems likely, as has been posited, that it was Duschnes who bought the manuscript and wielded the knife. He would have then sold remnants of the fragmented manuscript to Ege, who went on to distribute leaves of the missal through his usual channels. Duschnes originally sold leaves of the missal for as little as $25 each. They now go for as much as $9,000, a number that will certainly rise in the wake of this nearly-discovered provenance.

working map


We’ll start today with two collections in Birmingham, Alabama. Samford University owns a copy of the Otto Ege leaf set “Original Leaves from Famous Books: eight centuries, 1240 A.D. – 1923 A.D.”. This set includes several manuscript leaves, still in their Ege mattes (my thanks to Samford’s Rachel Cohen for the images). The Aristotle manuscript below is a well-known component of the “Original Leaves from Famous Books” sets. Ege cites it as having been copied in 1365, presumably because the manuscript, when whole, included a colophon giving the date of completion. Unfortunately, because he divided the manuscript and sold it off page by page, we have to take his word for it.

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, manuscript on paper (Germany, 1365)

Aristotle, Nichomachean Ethics, manuscript on paper (Germany, 1365) (Samford University)

The University also owns a few Ege leaves purchased in the early 1950s from the Lima Public Library in Ohio, such as this Italian leaf from a small Book of Hours.

Samford University, Manuscript L13

Samford University, Manuscript L13

The very first collection listed in the 1963 Supplement to the Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada is the Medical Library at the University of Alabama. The Library still owns these medical and scientific manuscripts, all of which have been digitized here.


Most of the medieval manuscripts in Georgia are concentrated in the Atlanta area. We’ll start at Georgia State University, which owns a single leaf of a 13th-century Parisian Bible (at left) notable for its strict adherence to the Gothic aesthetic: justified margins on all sides and closely-spaced letters. The lack of decoration, with new chapters starting midline and distinguished only by marginal chapter numbers, adds to the overall impression of density.

Emory University, also in Atlanta, has medieval material in several different collections. This Finding Aid in Woodruff Library’s MARBL catalogue includes several pre-1600 manuscript leaves, although none appear to have been digitized as of yet. The Pitts Theology Library owns a collection of thirteen leaves (shelfmark RG020-2), all of which have been imaged here (caveat lector: these 26 images represent thirteen leaves, since each side of each leaf has its own record; you’ll have to refer to the short-titles to determine which two images should be paired). This leaf, from a late fifteenth-century Dutch Book of Hours, is particularly fine:

Book of Hours (Netherlands, s. XV) (Emory University, Pitts Theological Library)

Book of Hours (Netherlands, s. XVex) (Emory University, Pitts Theology Library)

It is always worth looking at every image of every leaf in collection such as this, since you never know when you’re going to bump into an old friend. Remember the St. Alexius Hours? Emory’s leaf of this beautiful manuscript is culled from the Hours of the Holy Spirit (recto at left, verso at right):

Emory Alexius r Emory Alexius v

Also at Emory, the Michael C. Carlos Museum owns several manuscript leaves, including this gorgeous early thirteenth-century French Bible leaf that includes a very fine initial [I] for “In principio” (the first words of the book of Genesis) illustrated, as is common practice, with the days of Creation (shown here in detail):

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 1.00.52 PM

This initial adds to the typical iconography a vaster sweep of human history, including not just the days of Creation but also the Creation and Fall of Man as well as the Crucifixion, representing Man’s redemption.

The Museum also owns a leaf from a Humanistic Italian manuscript of Aristotle’s Economica, preserving a lovely example of the white-vine style of illumination typical of the time and place (detail at right).

Screen shot 2014-08-04 at 1.10.16 PM

Just north of Atlanta, we will find a very nice teaching collection of thirty manuscript leaves at Kennesaw State University. The selections below are notable for preserving  different styles of high-quality decorative penwork: the fluid French flourishes in manuscript 4 (a thirteenth-century French Bible) and the more typically Italian, highly-detailed work in manuscript 12 (a fifteenth-century Italian Book of Hours) (my thanks to Adam Doskey for the images):

Bible (France, s. XIII)(Kennesaw University, Manuscript 4v)

Bible (France, s. XIII) (Kennesaw State University, Manuscript 4v)

Book of Hours (Italy, s. XV) (Kennesaw University, Manuscript 12r)

Book of Hours (Italy, s. XV) (Kennesaw State  University, Manuscript 12r)

Kennesaw’s Manuscript 13 caught my eye as well. This leaf is a page from a calendar, with November on the recto and December on the verso. The segment cut from the lower margin may have been blank, cut away for use as scrap. This calendar almost certainly preceded a liturgical book such as a breviary; the contents suggest it was produced by monks  for monastic use rather than in a professional workshop for the use of a wealthy patron (hence a breviary, not a Book of Hours). At the beginning and end of each month are found verses that together form a popular poem known as “Prima dies Iani timor est” (Walther, Initia Carminum, no. 14561). These verses warn the reader of Egyptian Days, Dog Days, and other inauspicious days of each month. The verse on this leaf begins “Quinta novembris obest”; apparently the 5th of November is one to watch out for.

Calendar for November (Italy, s. XV) (Kennesaw University, MS 13r)

Calendar for November (Italy, s. XV) (Kennesaw University, MS 13r)


 From Atlanta, we’ll head due east on I-20. See you in South Carolina!



Filed under Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscript Road Trip: The Gulf Coast

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! I’ve been in the UK (saw some of you at Leeds), but I’m back home now, ready to pick up where I left off. I was going to head up to Birmingham, Alabama this week, but my itinerary will actually take us through the Florida panhandle and down the West coast of the Sunshine State instead. We’ll get to Alabama in a few weeks.

working map

The University of Florida in Gainesville has two interesting codices, leaves from both of which can be seen on this site, the results of a independent study in paleography and codicology at U. Florida. The first manuscript is a heavily-annotated thirteenth-century Bible from Italy (shown at right).

University of Florida, Special Collections, 225.52 B5822n

University of Florida, Special Collections, 225.52 B5822n

The second manuscript (below), a late fifteenth-century Cicero, is also Italian.

University of Florida, Special Collections, 871 C7i.X

University of Florida, Special Collections, 871 C7i.X

The Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania was not the only collection to benefit from the generosity of patron and collector Lawrence J. Schoenberg during his lifetime. Before his death last May, Larry lived with his wife Barbara Brizdle on the Gulf Coast of Florida, near Sarasota.  Several years ago, they donated ten leaves and a codex to Sarasota’s New College, including a very nice S. German/Austrian Romanesque gradual leaf (formerly LJS 117). I worked for Larry in the 1990s, before he donated these manuscripts to the College, so I actually catalogued and studied them some twenty years ago.

New College, formerly LJS 106 ("Copyright New College of Florida. This image may not be used for commercial purposes or altered in any way.")

New College, formerly LJS 106 (“Copyright New College of Florida. This image may not be used for commercial purposes or altered in any way.”)

The College very kindly sent me the image at right, formerly LJS 106, a leaf from a late fifteenth-century Book of Hours (I recognize my handwriting in the lower margin, where I wrote the Schoenberg shelfmark in pencil).

In nearby St. Petersburg, the Museum of Fine Arts has several fine leaves. See anything familiar?

Antiphonal, Italy, s. XV (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of Lothar and Mildred Uhl, Acq. 2007.12.4 recto)

Antiphonal, Italy, s. XV (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of Lothar and Mildred Uhl, Acq. 2007.12.4 recto)

David at Prayer (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of Lothar and Mildred Uhl, Acq. 2002.20 recto)

David at Prayer, opening of the Penitential Psalms (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of Lothar and Mildred Uhl, Acq. 2002.20 recto)

Museum of Fine Arts, 1979-11-1 recto

Beauvais Missal (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of David S. Hendrick III, Acq. 1979-11-1 recto)


Book of Hours (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of David S. Hendrick III, acq. 1979-11-1-5)

Book of Hours (Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, Gift of David S. Hendrick III, acq. 1979-11-5)

Several features of the leaf at right, from a ca. 1430 French Book of Hours, immediately struck me as familiar: the red fillet border, the unusual form of the [g], and the pointed-oval leaves in the margin. A search through my computer for leaves from Books of Hours with 16 lines per page led me to a leaf I catalogued for Smith College earlier this year, MS 42.5.

Smith College, Northampton, Mass., MS 42-5 recto

Smith College, Northampton, Mass., MS 42-5 recto

Like the Beauvais Missal, these leaves come from a manuscript dismembered by Otto Ege, although they were not used in any of his portfolio collections. A third leaf from this manuscript is in Providence, RI, at the Rhode Island School of Design (MS 43.444) [n.b. the leaves at Smith and RISD had previously been identified as part of Ege’s FOL 46, but they are in fact from a different manuscript (see S. Gwara, Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, Handlist 46)]. The Museum’s Beauvais Missal leaf and this Book of Hours leaf were given by David S. Hendrick III in 1979 along with three others; some of these may turn out to have an Ege provenance as well. For example, I haven’t seen an image of manuscript 1979-11-2, a ca. 1470 Aquinas, but I suspect it might have come from Ege’s FOL 40 (see Gwara, Handlist 40).

Screen shot 2014-06-25 at 12.23.23 PMAs we head east across the Florida peninsula, we’ll pass “The Happiest place on Earth.” There are no manuscripts that I know of in Disneyworld, but if you do go to Orlando to visit Disney or The Wizarding World of Harry Potter and you want to see some medieval manuscripts, make time for the faith-based theme park, The Holy Land Experience. This is where you will find a very impressive collection of early biblical manuscripts known as The Scriptorium, formerly the Van Kempen Collection. Some images are online here, although they are not very high resolution. Manuscript VK 783 is a 4th century Coptic manuscript known as Mississippi Coptic Codex II, and is the companion to Papyrus Bodmer XXII in Geneva; both have been studied here. The collection also contains very fine examples of Carolingian, Romanesque and Gothic manuscripts. You can download a nice image of their Wyclif Bible here.

Several other Florida collections are worth noting, although they have no digital presence as yet: Florida State Universiy in Tallahassee, St. Leo Abbey in St. Leo, and the Ringling Museum in Sarasota.

Now we’ll turn northward and start making our way up the Atlantic coast.






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Manuscript Road Trip: Graceland and Ole Miss

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

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

On the way to New Orleans from Arkansas, I wanted to make a virtual stop at the University of Mississippi. But if this were an actual road trip, we’d drive through Memphis, Tennessee to get to Ole Miss. So as long as we’re “driving” through, we’ll make two stops in Memphis: the Memphis Brooks Art Museum and Rhodes College (we’ll check out other Tennessee collections in a few weeks). As far as I know, there aren’t any medieval manuscripts at Graceland, so we’ll just drive by the gates and pay our respects to Elvis en route.



working mapThe Memphis Brooks Museum of Art reports holdings of twelve manuscript leaves, although only one seems to be reproduced on their website. The image is low-resolution but is clear enough to identify it as a leaf from a Book of Hours, ca. 1440, preserving the opening of the Office of the Dead. With thanks to Marilyn Massler, the Museum’s Associate Registrar, I am able to share two images with you that she kindly sent to me:  Acq. 56.27 (the Book of Hours linked above) and Acq. 56.30 (a calendar leaf from a Book of Hours).

French; Latin text LEAF FROM A BOOK OF HOURS, SERVICE FOR THE DEAD, ca. 1450 Ink and gilt Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis TN; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery Purchase 56.27

French; Latin text
Ink and gilt
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis TN; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery Purchase 56.27


French; Latin text LEAF FROM A BOOK OF HOURS, OCTOBER CALENDER, ca. 1450 Ink and gilt Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery Purchase, 56.30

French; Latin text
Ink and gilt
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN; Brooks Memorial Art Gallery Purchase, 56.30

In Otto Ege’s Manuscripts, Scott Gwara identifies some of the Museum’s leaves as having an Ege provenance: see Gwara, Handlist 21, 31 (this is MBMA 56.27), 46 (this is 56.30), 69 and 74.

At Rhodes College, the Hanson Collection of Leaves from Books and Manuscripts has been completely digitized (but not catalogued) here. These are all Ege leaves, mostly from two portfolios (Hanson Collection 1 is from Original Leaves from Famous Bibles: Nine centuries, 1121-1935 A.D.  and Hanson Collection 2 is Original Leaves from Famous Books: Eight Centuries, 1240 A.D. – 1923 A.D.).

Livy, History of Rome, explicit with colophon and date (Rhodes College, Ege Famous Books, Leaf 3v)

Livy, History of Rome, explicit with colophon and date (Rhodes College, Ege Famous Books, Leaf 3v)

Remarkably, the Rhodes leaf from a well-known Ege copy of Livy’s History of Rome (not the Livy in the Fifty Original Leaves portfolio, however) happens to be the final leaf of the manuscript and includes a colophon recording the manuscript’s date of completion, 21 September 1456 (Gwara, Handlist 52). Ege’s description of the manuscript gives the date as 1436, a misreading of the colophon. Once Ege had dismembered the manuscript and scattered its leaves, that mis-information continued to be attached to the leaves via the letterpress label Ege adhered to each matte; leaves from this manuscript are therefore usually catalogued with the incorrect date (for example, here, here, and here). Let this be a cautionary tale: metadata, even bad metadata, is sticky and can hang around unquestioned for decades. Ege Livy label


Rhodes College, Hanson Collection 3, no. 25

Rhodes College, Hanson Collection 3, no. 25

Among the miscellaneous Ege leaves in Hanson Collection 3 are two leaves of our old friend the Beauvais Missal (No. 6 and No. 7) and a leaf from a Book of Hours in Dutch (at right).

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 7, f. 4

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 7, f. 4

The are ten leaves in the Priscian Fragment Collection in the Archives and Special Collections department at Ole Miss (a.k.a. the University of Mississippi, in Oxford). These have also been digitized and can be found here. Among these are four bifolia from a very nice thirteenth-century manuscript of Donatus’ grammar handbook (below) and a leaf of an early-fifteenth-century Book of Hours with really exquisite and ornate rinceaux in the margins (below).

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 10v

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 10v

It should not surprise you to find several Ege leaves in this collection as well: no. 5 is FOL 39 (Gwara Handlist 39, the other Livy), and no. 6 is FOL 1 (Gwara Handlist 1, a glossed twelfth-century Bible). The highlights for me, though, and almost certainly the oldest bits of parchment in the state, are three tenth-century fragments from three different manuscripts of  Priscian’s Grammar:

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 2

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 2

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 1

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 1

Ole Miss Priscian 3

Univ. of Mississippi, Archives and Special Collections, Priscian Collection, no. 3

These three fragments, the founding pieces of the Priscian Collection, were once owned by Ernst Joseph Alexander Seyfert (1745-1832), a scholar who studied the history of grammar education, a topic in which Priscian and Donatus figure quite prominently.

Road trips are about the journey, not the destination, and are by definition prone to detours and side trips. Next week, I promise we’ll reach New Orleans!


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Filed under Medieval Manuscripts, Otto F. Ege