Tag Archives: Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscript Road Trip: Linked Data, Library Science, and Medieval Manuscripts

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

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

Greetings, readers! In today’s post, we’re doing some library science and getting our hands dirty by digging into online cataloguing and data models. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

I’ve just returned from the annual Schoenberg Symposium on Manuscript Studies in the Digital Age at the University of Pennsylvania. It was an inspiring gathering of manuscript scholars and digital humanists, thinking about how we can collaborate and facilitate each others’ work.

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Hooking Up” – in the context of the symposium, the term refers to the concept and practice of “linked data.”

Some of you may know that in addition to my work as Executive Director of the Medieval Academy of America and my manuscript research, I am a Professor of Library Science at the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science in Boston. In my annual class, “The Medieval Manuscript from Charlemagne to Gutenberg,” we spend a lot of time discussing the history of cataloguing and classification theory and thinking about how to apply those concepts to the modern digitization and cataloguing of medieval material. In the context of Library Science, “linked data” means forging digital connections between standardized referents in order to 1) avoid inefficient duplication of data entry and 2) ensure consistency.

For example, if you are cataloguing a manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (lucky you!), you have to make a choice about how to refer to the author. Are you going to call him “Chaucer,” “Geoffrey Chaucer,” or “Chaucer, Geoffrey”? The choice you make will have important implications for your library patrons. To make your online record “discoverable,” or easily find-able by users, you have to use what are called “authorities,” standardized names and titles that are established, in the US, by the Library of Congress. There are several international authority files as well, brought together in a meta-authority file known as VIAF.

 

That’s a major oversimplification of the concept of authorities, but it’s important background for what I really wanted to write about.

When I started this blog back in 2013, I wanted to use this space to explore the burgeoning world of online access to medieval manuscripts in North America. Back in 2013, if manuscripts were being catalogued online at all, it was almost always as part of the library’s general online catalogue (known as an OPAC (Online Public Access Catalogue)) using the standard data model (also established by the Library of Congress) called MARC (MAchine-Readable Cataloging – check out the Wikipedia entry for a brief introduction). MARC was developed in the 1960s specifically for printed books, NOT for handwritten documents and other unique materials. And so it doesn’t work very well for those rare, unique objects.

There are lots of reasons why MARC is problematic for cataloguing unique objects, but here’s one of the most important: the structure of a MARC record is incompatible with a unique object such as a medieval manuscript.

511VWIezTWL._SX303_BO1,204,203,200_ The conceptual framework underlying a MARC record is replication. If you’ve just purchased a paperback copy of the third edition of the Norton Critical Edition of Moby Dick, you’ll want to input it into your library’s OPAC. This paperback edition has 736 pages and measures 5.6 x 9.3 inches. A different edition of the work will have a different number of pages and different measurements, but EVERY copy of THIS edition will have the same number of pages and the same dimensions. So to input this edition into your database, all you have to do is visit the Library of Congress backend database and import the correct “Bibliographic Record” (“Bib Record” for short – the metadata for a particular edition of a particular work) into your OPAC. Once you’ve added your Bib Record, you then indicate how many copies of that edition are in your library and their call numbers (in “Item” records hanging off the Bib Record), and you’re done! Here’s an example of the third edition in the Yale University OPAC (called Orbis).

A Bib Record is by definition NOT unique. The Item in your library might have unique features (a bookplate or autograph, for example), but the Bib Record that holds that Item Record is not. It applies to every copy of that edition, not matter where those copies live. This is why the MARC structure is fundamentally at odds with manuscript cataloguing: every manuscript is unique. Each manuscript of The Canterbury Tales has a different number of leaves and different measurements from every other manuscript of the text (among other unique features). A Bib Record for a medieval manuscript can therefore only have one Item Record associated with it, which defeats the purpose of MARC architecture.

Because of this reproduce-ability, the central aggregator for MARC records, OCLC, automates the creation of lists of locations for each Item associated with a particular Bib Record in the aggregated catalogue, WorldCat. The WorldCat record for our edition of Moby Dick, for example, lists 108 locations in the Boston area. That’s super-helpful…if you or someone in your family happens to need this exact edition, you can easily find a copy at a library near you. However, this automation is a real problem where medieval manuscripts are concerned. For any particular manuscript, there simply cannot be more than one location. And yet, we find records like this one for a Book of Hours, listing FIFTY-NINE locations! This is an impossibility – the Bib Record represents a specific manuscript in a specific location, but the aggregator has mistakenly associated dozens of other Books of Hours with this one, because they have the same title. As a result, there is no way to know which actual manuscript this record represents. This record – which had ONE JOB TO DO – has failed. It has not allowed me to locate the manuscript.

It occurred to me today, though, that there is one situation where the MARC structure might be quite helpful for dealing with manuscripts: single leaves in different collections that were originally part of the same manuscript. I’ll use the Beauvais Missal as an example.

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A Digital Selection of Beauvais Missal Leaves

There are many Beauvais Missal leaves to be found in WorldCat. The problem is that you can’t easily find them. A search for “Beauvais Missal” and “Latin” retrieves nine records, one of which is a printed book. The eight remaining records are indeed Beauvais Missal leaves. They have eight different titles and six different dates, ranging from 1150 to 1450 (spoiler alert: it’s actually ca. 1290). Because I happen to know that Otto Ege assigned to this manuscript the exact date of 1285, I know that a record with the title “Missal” and the date “1285” is pretty likely to be from this manuscript as well: a search for “missal,” “Latin,” and “1285” finds ten records, nine of which are Beauvais Missal leaves (and one of which, at Loyola University Chicago, I didn’t know about until today! That makes 108…). A search for “Otto F. Ege” and “missal” retrieves additional records, including a few records for Ege’s “Fifty Original Leaves of Medieval Manuscripts” portfolios, in which Beauvais Missal leaves are no. 15. Finally, a search on THAT title finds even MORE records. Many of these results are duplicates, appearing in multiple results lists. It shouldn’t be this difficult. You see where I’m going with this: if each Beauvais Missal leaf shared a common Bib Record, you, as the cataloguer, could import that Bib Record into your OPAC and hang your own Item (that is, your Beauvais Missal leaf) off of that Bib Record. But that would only be possible if someone somewhere was creating those standardized Bib Records in the Library of Congress database so that local OPAC cataloguers could find and import them. That seems an unlikely prospect.

All of this doesn’t mean you CAN’T use MARC for manuscripts, especially if you don’t have any other options. But you have to be aware of the limitations of the data model and the square-peg-round-hole-ness of stuffing manuscripts into MARC. In other words, proceed with caution. If you MUST put your manuscripts in your MARC-based OPAC, I recommend following the model developed by Yale University, whose records are also designed to be ingestible by Digital Scriptorium. Here’s a good example, chosen COMPLETELY at random (for the MARC cataloguers out there, the secret to discoverability and this jury-rigged interoperability has to do with the 500s, 650, and 690 fields – select MARC View for details).

The good news is that new models have developed in the years since I started this Manuscript Road Trip and are catching on. Many collections now use integrative systems such as CONTENTdm or LUNA, systems that integrate digital images with data models that are flexible and more appropriate for unique material like medieval manuscripts. Such systems may also be compatible with IIIF functionality, enabling image as well as linked-data interoperability. The records can also be ingested by WorldCat, as with this Beauvais Missal leaf belonging to Western Michigan University. The institutional LUNA-based record is here. Even though such records can be ingested by OCLC, they use a different architecture than MARC records, resolving the Bib/Item problem.

As more and more institutions migrate to image/data systems, especially those with IIIF functionality, we will see vast improvements in discoverability, access, and interoperability of online medieval and otherwise-unique material. Let’s get to work!

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Manuscript Road Trip: Fragmentology in the Wild

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

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

A recent blogpost by tenacious and brilliant manuscript researcher Peter Kidd inspired me to write this post, on a topic I’ve been meaning to write about for some time: an update on digital reconstructions of manuscripts dismembered and/or scattered by Otto Ege. If that name is new to you, take a look at this site, my blogposts here and here, and search Peter Kidd’s blog, to get the basics. If you happen to own any leaves that came through Ege’s hands, you’ll also want to find a copy of Scott Gwara’s seminal reference work Otto Ege’s Manuscripts (in what follows, the FOL and HL designations refer to Gwara’s handlist).

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

Peter Kidd recently made significant discoveries about the provenance of the codex that became Ege FOL 4 (i.e. no. 4 in the “Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts” portfolios), discoveries that were quickly supplemented on Twitter by University of Notre Dame curator David Gura’s realization that UND manuscript Lat. b. 11 is in fact a portion of the manuscript that became Ege FOL 4. I then contacted Dr. Yin Liu, a professor in the English Department at the University of Saskatchewan who is supervising a Master’s Thesis on this very manuscript, to tell her of Kidd and Gura’s discoveries. This is just one example of how networks of scholars are using social media to make discoveries and share information about fragments and fragmentology. Search #fragmentology or #OttoEge to see more such networks at work.

The potential for digital reconstruction of Ege manuscripts was first noted by Barbara Shailor in her 2003 article, “Otto Ege: His Manuscript Fragment Collection and the Opportunities Presented by Electronic Technology” (The Journal of the Rutgers University Libraries 60 (2003), 1-22). “For Otto Ege fragments now dispersed around the world,” she wrote, “the possibilities presented by modern technology are fascinating. It is only a matter of time, financial resources, and scholarly communication and perseverance before significant portions of Ege’s intriguing collection will be reassembled and made available electronically.” (p. 22) Since the advent of Digital Fragmentology as a methodological framework a few years ago, the number of digital reconstructions of dismembered medieval manuscripts has multiplied and continues to grow as more scholars see the potential of such research and engage with interoperable images to conduct their work. In particular, several projects are underway that take advantage of the coherent collections of leaves assembled by biblioclast Otto Ege and his wife Louise in the mid-twentieth century.

In the wake of the expanding universe of Digital Fragmentology, I thought it might be useful to gather in one place the current work being done by different scholars on Ege manuscripts, so that curators and collectors will know whom they should contact if they come across these leaves. All of these scholars will already be familiar with the leaves in the known “Fifty Original Leaves” portfolios, but if you come across examples that aren’t in portfolios, please let them know! Here are the projects of which I am aware:

Ege FOL 1: A twelfth-century glossed Bible. There is a large portion of this manuscript at Stanford University, and the curator of manuscripts there, Benjamin L Albritton, is working on a digital reconstruction. This was the first use-case employing IIIF-compliance in a shared-canvas environment, demonstrating how this technology could be used to digitally reconstruct dismembered manuscripts.

Ege FOL 4: This is the so-called Chain Psalter that is the subject of Ariel Brecht’s Master’s thesis at the University of Saskatchewan. If you find a leaf that isn’t in an Ege portfolio, please contact her.

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

Ege FOL 7: This thirteenth-century copy of Peter Riga’s Aurora is being reconstructed by incoming Columbia University Freshman Sindhu Krishnamurthy, under my guidance. If you find a leaf, please let me know and I will contact her.

Ege FOL 8: The “Wilton Processional” is the subject of extensive study and publication by Alison Altstatt at the University of Northern Iowa. In particular, see “Re-membering the Wilton Processional” in Notes: the Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association 72, no. 4 (June 2016), 690-732.

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

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

Ege FOL 29: A Book of Hours reconstructed by students in my Introduction to Medieval Manuscripts class at the Simmons University School of Library and Information Science (Boston, Massachusetts) in the fall of 2018, using the Fragmentarium interface. More on Fragmentarium here.

Ege FOL 30: Another Book of Hours rebuilt in Fragmentarium, this one undertaken by my Simmons students in the fall of 2017.

 

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

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

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

Ege FOL 47: Another Book of Hours reconstructed by Simmons students, this one using Omeka in 2015 (as Fragmentarium hadn’t yet been launched).

Ege FOL 48: Yet ANOTHER Book of Hours reconstructed by yet MORE Simmons students, using Omeka in the fall of 2016.

Ege HL 51: This complex Aristotelian manuscript from Erfurt is being studied by Prof.  Riccardo Strobino at Tufts University. Leaves of this manuscript are no. 2 in Ege’s “Original Leaves from Famous Books, Eight Centuries” and no. 3 in the “Original Leaves from Famous Books, Nine Centuries” portfolios. These portfolios are numerous, and Gwara identifies several dozen locations (Gwara, pp. 100-102).

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

Ege HL 79: This manuscript isn’t the subject of a reconstruction (yet), but since it was written by the well-known humanistic scribe Bartolomeo Sanvito, it may be worth someone’s attention! More about this manuscript here (by Peter Kidd).

Ege HL 80: Although he isn’t working on a formal reconstruction of this humanistic Book of Hours, Peter Kidd has written about its history and dispersal here. It’s worth noting that the University of Colorado at Boulder owns several leaves, including a bifolium and two that are illuminated.

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

I don’t know of anyone who is working on any of the non-western leaves (fifteen of which were part of what Ege called the “Oriental” portfolio), but they are all excellent candidates for reconstructions. Fragmentarium allows for right-left directional reading in reconstructions, by the way, making it an excellent interface for such a project.

To help identify Ege leaves in your own collection, or if you want to work on any of the other Ege manuscripts, start your search with this selection of “Fifty Original Leaves” sets, beautifully digitized in open-access environments:

Other sets are posted on Denison’s Ege site, but these images are not always high quality. For other Ege-related leaves, you’ll want to refer to the indices in Gwara’s book.

If you do happen to find any of the above-mentioned leaves in your own collection, please contact the relevant scholars (or you can always reach out to me and I’ll pass the news along to the appropriate person). If I’ve missed any Ege-based reconstruction projects, please let me know and I’ll work to keep this list updated. In the meantime, follow #fragmentology and #OttoEge on Twitter to stay on top of breaking fragmentology news!

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Manuscript Road Trip: Manuscrits de Québec

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

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

There are several hundred medieval and Renaissance manuscripts to be found in the Canadian province of Quebec, although very few have a digital presence. The small list published in the de Ricci Census was only slightly increased by the Supplement. Both were fleshed out more fully by Bruno Roy in 1999 (“Spicilegium Montis Regii, Description de quelques manuscrits conservés à Montréal,” Memini. Travaux et documents, 3, 1999, p. 171-194) and by a special issue of Memini published in 2011 and available online here. The latter is a very useful work – with brief notices, studies of individual manuscripts, and extensive bibliography – that adds significantly to the information compiled by myself and Melissa Conway in our Directory of Collections in the United States and Canada with Pre-1600 Manuscript Holdings (pp. 419-420); unfortunately, we didn’t know about Memini until our work had already been published. The next online update to our Directory will include all of these collections as well as the relocation information (such as the disposition of the manuscript leaves recorded by de Ricci as belonging to F. Cleveland Morgan) traced by Brenda Dunn-Lardeau and Janick Auberger in their introduction to the Memini volume. In sum, several hundred pre-1600 European manuscripts can be found today in at least ten collections in Quebec, most of which are in Montreal:

Québec-city

Québec City: Lots to see, but no manuscripts

 

Bibliothèque et Archives nationale du Québec (Montreal)

Bibliothèque centrale de la Ville de Montréal (Montreal)

Concordia University (Montreal)

Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, Collège Jean-de-Brébeuf (Montreal)

McGill University (Montreal)

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts (Montreal)

Musée McCord (Montreal)

Université de Montréal (Montreal)

Université du Québec à Montréal, Bibliothèque des Arts (Montreal)

Musée de la civilisation, Musée de l’Amérique Francophone (Québec)

Because this blog is primarily focused on digital access to medieval and Renaissance manuscripts, we’ll spend today in Montreal, where there are several collections with online handlists, images, or records.

Canada Map

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 12.45.14 PM.pngThe University of Montreal provides a detailed online handlist of medieval material, but without images (except for this image, which is on the cover of the PDF). Most of the objects listed are binding fragments, including this late-eleventh-century Italian legendary, of which the collection holds eight leaves. Of particular interest is that the handlist records details about the particular early printed books from which the fragments were removed. While European fragment collections sometimes retain this information, since the fragments were often removed from the early printed books by the owning institution, most North American collections acquired their fragments long after they had been pulled out of bindings and have little to no knowledge of the source bindings. For more on the collection, see Joyce Boro, “Notes on Libraries and Collections: Rare Books and Special Collections,University of Montreal/Livres rares et collections spéciales de Université de Montréal,” Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of manuscripts and printing history (Vol. 10, 2007), pp. 287 ff.
On the other side of Mont-Royal, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts owns one codex and around forty leaves, but the online search engine is difficult to use when searching for manuscripts. After some experimentation, a search for “vélin” had the most success, bringing up records for three leaves and a Book of Hours (along with a few later objects on vellum). For more information on these and other early manuscripts, see E. Leesti, Les manuscrits liturgiques du Moyen âge. Liturgical Manuscripts of the Middle Ages (Montréal, Musée des Beaux-Arts de Montréal, 1987).
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Montreal MFA acq. 1955.3770 (St. Sebaldus, by Simon Bening)

MMFA acq. 1955.3770 (at left) is a miniature of St. Sebaldus enthroned holding the Nuremberg cathedral on his lap, with a lively bas-de page jousting scene. The miniature – from an as-yet-unidentified Book of Hours – has been convincingly attributed by Elizabeth Leesti, Sandra Hindman, and others to Simon Bening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The lovely late-thirteenth-century French miniature of the Adoration of the Magi (acq. 1962.1355) shown below may have been part of a full cycle of miniatures at the beginning of a Psalter. It was given to the Museum by F. Cleveland Morgan, although it isn’t included in his Census listing (II:2233).

1962_1355_IN1

 

The Annunciation miniature below (acq. 1962.1357) comes from a ca. 1430 Book of Hours. It was also given to the Museum by F. Cleveland Morgan but, like the Adoration miniature, was not recorded in the Morgan Census.1962_1357_IN2

 

The final online record is for a late-fifteenth-century Book of Hours (acq. 1943.1372). The manuscript was donated to the Museum by Vera Pratt (called “Mrs. George D. Pratt” in the record), whose New York collection is recorded in the Census (II:1809-10). This codex may be her No. 2, although the Museum record doesn’t include enough codicological descriptors to allow for a firm identification (it is worth noting that the Pratt manuscript is identified in the Schoenberg Database as having been offered – but not sold –  at Sotheby’s London, 22 June 1982, lot 79, but the identification of the lot as Pratt no. 2 may be incorrect…if anyone has the catalogue and could take a look at the lot for me, I would be very grateful!).

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This ca. 1470 Book of Hours belonging to Concordia University in Montreal is described in detail in the Memini volume, which includes several images in addition to that at right, an image of Death attacking a woman in a cemetery illustrating the Office of the Dead.

Several manuscripts from the Université du Québec à Montréal’s Bibliothèque des Arts are discussed in the Memini volume as well, with multiple images. See also the exhibition catalogue, Le Livre médiéval et humaniste dans les collections de lUQAM. Actes de la Journée détudes sur les livres anciens suivis du Catalogue de lexposition « Lhumanisme et les imprimeurs français au XVIes. », dir. B. Dunn-Lardeau et J. Biron (Université du Québec à Montréal, Figura. Le Centre de recherche sur le texte et l’imaginaire, 2006). Here are the manuscripts discussed in Memini:

MS 1: 13th-c. Paris pocket Bible:

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UQAM MS 1, f. 1

 

MS 2:  a truly international late fourteenth-century Book of Hours…made in the Netherlands for an English owner with later Italian additions but currently a resident of Canada:

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UQAM MS 2, f. 22v

MS 3: Book of Hours of Pellegrin de Remicourt (ca. 1470-1475), in which he and his wife Madeleine later recorded the birthdates, names, and godparents of their children. Shown here, the births of their first three children in 1478, 1480, and 1482:

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UQAM MS 3, f. 1

Livres rares Général YPA 224: Cicero, De finibus bonorum et malorum (Italy, ca. 1460):

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UQAM YPA 224, f. 1

For next time, take a boat up the St. Lawrence and across Lake Ontario to meet me in Toronto…

St.-Lawrence-River

 

 

 

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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: 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: 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:

Slide03

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. [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.

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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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