Remember last time when I said we’d go to the Jersey Shore? I lied. There are no medieval manuscripts on the Jersey Shore. If you’re a Bruce Springsteen fan, I highly recommend a visit to Asbury Park. But if you want manuscripts? Stay on the New Jersey Turnpike, the well-travelled and beloved thoroughfare that runs up the middle of the state. It just wouldn’t be a roadtrip without it.
We’ll start by getting off at Exit 8 and heading west into Princeton, where we will find one of the largest collections of medieval manuscripts in the U.S. at Princeton University. According to their website, the Manuscripts Division of the Rare Book and Special Collections Library holds “172 [medieval and Renaissance manuscripts] in the Robert Garrett Collection, 58 in the Grenville Kane Collection, 19 in the Robert Taylor Collection, and 201 in the growing Princeton Collection of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts. In addition, there are a number of manuscripts in the Cotsen Library, other manuscripts in other manuscript series or bound with printed books; more than 250 separate miniatures, leaves, and cuttings; and about 100 manuscripts in the Scheide Library.” (the Scheide Library is a private collection housed on the Princeton campus; the collector, William H. Scheide, passed away in November 2014)
Curator Don Skemer’s detailed and gorgeous catalogue of the Princeton collection reminds us why print catalogues are still worth publishing, especially when augmented by a significant online presence. Many of these manuscripts have been at least partially digitized, with images and metadata available through the Index of Christian Art and ARTstor (both paywalled, but many major research libraries are subscribers to one or the other). If you don’t have access to either of these subscription databases, you can find links to a growing collection of digitized manuscripts in Princeton’s Digital Library. Best of all (and here I may be accused of burying the lead), the Checklist of Western Medieval, Byzantine, and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Princeton University Library and the Scheide Library includes links to thousands of images.
The miniature below, from Garrett MS. 48, struck me not only because of the elaborate diapered backgrounds in each of the four miniatures but in particular because of the lovely image in the lower margin of Christ learning to walk, toddling towards his mother’s outstretched arms (detail below).
Here are a few other highlights:
Garrett MS. 125 (Chrétien de Troyes, Le chevalier au lion and other French texts) (NW France, s. XIIIex)
Garrett MS. 158 (Giovanni Marcanova [ Collectio antiquitatum ]) (Italy (probably Bologna), 1471 (?) or after 1473)
Garrett MS. 43 (Benedictional written in late Carolingian minuscule and illuminated, probably at Lorsch Abbey, in the second quarter of the eleventh century)
Garrett MS. 126 (Le Roman de la rose, Paris, mid-14th century)
Keep an eye on Don Skemer’s blog for additional information about the collection. Manuscripts are held by other collections in Princeton, including the Princeton Theological Seminary (an institution independent of the University which holds, among other items, several examples of Oxyrhynchus papyri) and the Princeton University Art Museum (which holds, among other items, one of the scrolls edited in my forthcoming book). An Advanced Search in the Museum collection for “Classification = Manuscripts” and “Department = Prints and Drawings” will bring up most of the manuscripts and cuttings.
Now it’s back to the Turnpike, continuing north to Exit 9. If you need a beach break, turn right and go through East Brunswick towards Asbury Park. If you want some more manuscripts, turn westward and stop off at Rutgers University in New Brunswick.
Rutgers University is home to several dozen leaves from manuscripts dismembered by our old friend Otto Ege. These leaves were the inspiration for one of the first, and still seminal, studies of Ege and his biblioclastic ways, Barbara Shailor’s “Otto Ege: his manuscript fragment collection and the opportunities presented by electronic technology” in The Book as Art, Literature and History (New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers Universities Libraries, c2003), available online here. The manuscripts are all accessible on Digital Scriptorium.
Just 1.5 miles up George St. is the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. Among the printed books in the Gardner A. Sage library is a three-volume hybrid set of the works of St. Ambrose, the first (and probably the second) volume from 1516. The third volume is an incunable printed in Basel by Johann Amerbach in 1492. Conservation of the books yielded three binding fragments, since removed and housed separately. The first was from Giraldus Cremonensis’ Latin translation of Aristotle’s Meteora (Book II). The second volume contained a scrap of an Old French translation of the Book of Judges (20:23 – 21:7) and the third volume around 200 lines of a unique Old French Life of St. Andrew. Both Old French fragments date from the early thirteenth century. For more, see Gerald A. Bertin and Alfred Foulet, “The Acts of Andrew in Old French Verse: The Gardner A. Sage Library Fragment (PMLA 81 (1966), 451-454) and Gerald A. Bertin, “The Book of Judges in Old French prose : the Gardner A. Sage Library fragment” (Romania 90 (1969), 121-131).