Tag Archives: Medieval Manuscripts

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:

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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).

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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:

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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:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Digital Selection of Beauvais Missal Leaves

A Digital Selection of Beauvais Missal Leaves

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

Slide21

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reconstruction of Ege

Reconstruction of Ege “Fifty Original Leaves” MS 1

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

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

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

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.

Slide32

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

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

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Manuscript Road Trip: A DH Detour

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.34.51 AM

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

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

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

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

Screen Shot 2015-06-01 at 11.32.27 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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

Canada

ONT       Toronto                Art Gallery of Ontario

ONT       Toronto                Ontario College of Art and Design

ONT       Toronto                Univ. of Toronto

SASK      Saskatchewan   Univ. of Saskatchewan

England

Christopher de Hamel

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

[Private collection in Yorkshire, RMGYMss]

[Private collection]

Japan

[Private collection]

Monaco

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

Norway

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!

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