Tag Archives: Sydney Cockerell

Manuscript Road Trip: The Boston Public Library

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

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

This week, after eighteen months, forty-nine posts, and forty-eight states, the Manuscript Road Trip goes home. Welcome to Boston!

I’ve lived just west of Boston for fifteen years, much of that time spent working as a consultant cataloguing collections of medieval manuscripts in the area. Ironically, some of the collections I know so well are not particularly well-known outside New England. This will change in the fall of 2016 with the opening of “Pages from the Past,” a major exhibition of several hundred manuscripts from more than a dozen Boston-area collections, an exhibit I have the great privilege of co-curating with Jeffrey Hamburger, William Stoneman, Nancy Netzer, and Anne-Marie Eze. As the exhibit is still eighteen months away, I’m going to spend the next few weeks writing about collections in the Boston area.working mapLet’s start with one of the great treasures of the City of Boston: The Boston Public Library.Exterior

CourtyardThe Boston Public Library, founded in 1854, was the first municipal “Free Library” in the United States. In the 1880s, architect Charles McKim was commissioned to design a worthy home for the Library, and the result is an architectural gem.interior With its palazzo-style courtyard and famed murals by John Singer Sargent, the Central Branch at Copley Square is one of the premier examples of Renaissance-revival Beaux Arts design. Lest the grand and imposing edifice intimidate the public it was designed to serve, the simple phrase “FREE TO ALL” in granite relief above the arched doorways serves as a constant reminder of the Library’s mission and mandate.

Free to All

That mission includes the stewardship of several extremely important special collections, primarily Americana (John Adams’ personal library, for example, as well as early American and Civil War collections and the Sacco and Vanzetti Defense archive). Unbeknownst to most library patrons, the Boston Public Library is also home to several hundred medieval and Renaissance manuscripts.

BPL MS f. Med. 6, f. 103 (Easter Sunday, with an historiated initial lacking)

One of the BPL’s first medieval acquisitions,  MS f. Med. 5 (f. 103, Easter Sunday, with an historiated initial lacking)

In 1878, the Boston Public Library bought its first medieval manuscripts, two volumes of a multi-volume set of Nicholas of Lyra’s Postilla super totam bibliam written in “Paradisus” abbey, Germany (poss. Düren) in 1471. The two manuscripts preserve Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs (MS f. Med. 3), and the Twelve Minor Prophets (MS f. Med. 4); two other volumes of the set are Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Lat. 231 (which contains the Book of Wisom and is consecutive with f. Med. 3) and Philadelphia, Free Library, Lewis E 43 (Pauline Epistles). Another early acquisition was MS f. Med. 5, a mid-fourteenth-century Missal from Italy given to the BPL by Dr. W. N. Bullard in 1896.

It was not until 1900, however, when Librarian James Lyman Whitney entered into a long-standing relationship with British bibliophile Sydney Cockerell, that the collection began to truly take shape.  William Stoneman, Curator of Manuscripts at Harvard University’s Houghton Library, traces the early roots of the BPL’s manuscript collection to the 1849 sale of 702 manuscripts from the library of French collector Joseph Barrois (1785? – 1855) to the Fourth Earl of Ashburnham (1797 – 1878), described by Seymour de Ricci as “one of the great collectors of the nineteenth century” (Stoneman, p. 350).

Notes made by Sydney Cockerell inside the front cover of BPL MS q. Med. 6, a late thirteenth-century Psalter

Notes made by Sydney Cockerell inside the front cover of BPL MS q. Med. 6, a late thirteenth-century Psalter

It may seem a distant connection, but when the Barrois-Ashburnham collection was sold at Sotheby’s on 10 June 1901, Sydney Cockerell bought twenty-one manuscripts on behalf of the Boston Public Library. He had been authorized to do so the previous year by the Librarian and Trustees, who granted him free reign to spend the significant sum of $1000 “for the purchase of illuminated manuscripts.” (see W. P. Stoneman, “‘Variously Employed’: The Pre-Fitzwilliam Career of Sydney Carlyle Cockerell” in S. Panayotova, ed., Art, Academia and the Trade: Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867 – 1962) (Cambridge Bibliographical Society, 2010), pp. 345-361, at pp. 350-351).

St. Augustine, De civitate dei (BPL MS f. Med. 10, f. 1v) (photo by James Marrow)

St. Augustine, De civitate dei (BPL MS f. Med. 10, f. 1v) (photo by James Marrow)

Cockerell’s knowledge of the art market made him the perfect agent for the Library, and his choices were savvy. Broadly interpreting the Trustees’ instruction to purchase “illuminated manuscripts,” Cockerell acquired a variety of codices at the Ashburnham sale, for the most part decorated but unillustrated, focusing on multiple genres, scripts, and time periods rather than bidding on pricier (and therefore fewer) books that might have been more sumptuous. There were notable exceptions, of course. Over the course of their relationship, Cockerell acquired twenty-six manuscripts for the Boston Public Library, some of which were indeed quite beautifully illuminated. He facilitated the acquisition of one of BPL’s finest books, a copy of St. Augustine’s De civitate dei written in Utrecht in 1466 and illuminated by the eponymous “Master of the Boston City of God,” since identified as Antonis Rogiersz uten Broec (BPL MS f. Med. 10). Over the last century, the collection has been augmented by gifts, bequests, and purchases and is now one of the largest municipal manuscript collections in the country.

Individual manuscripts in the collection have been studied over the years, and some are well-known to scholarship. Until recently, however, there was no catalogue of BPL manuscripts other than the incomplete listing in the de Ricci Census and its Supplement. I recently spent two years writing a comprehensive catalogue of the collection, and MARC records based on my work are currently in development that will include links to my formal descriptions. A large-scale digitization project is also underway, although some of the manuscripts had been previously digitized and are available online through the Internet Archive:

BPL q. Med. 20 (Marcus Manilius, Astronomica, Italy (Ferrara), 1461)

BPL pf. Med. 97, f 1 (oversize Ferial Psalter, Piacenza, ca. 1495). This massive choirbook was originally part of a set of fourteen giant manuscripts produced for the Cathedral of Piacenza.

BPL pf. Med. 97, f 1 (oversize Ferial Psalter, Piacenza, ca. 1495). This massive choirbook was originally part of a set of fourteen giant manuscripts produced for the Abbey of St. Sixtus in Piacenza.

BPL f. Med. 73 (Johannes Andreae, Hieronymianus, Netherlands (Utrecht), ca. 1470)

BPL f. Med. 91 (Guillaume de Tignonville, Dits des philosophes, France, ca. 1420)

BPL f. Med. 101 (Christine de Pizan, Le livre des trois vertus, France, ca. 1450)

BPL f. Med. 125 (Gregorio Dati, La Sfera, Italy (Pesaro), 1484)

BPL q. Med. 129 ([Hours of the Passion, in verse], Flanders, ca. 1465-1475)

BPL f. Med. 133 (Das Leiden unserz Herren Jhesu Christi, Germany, ca. 1460)

Here are a few other highlights of the collection.

BPL MS f. Med. 95, f. 73v (Detail)

BPL MS f. Med. 95, f. 73v (Detail)

MS f. Med. 95 is a homiliary thought to have been written in the early part of the tenth century at the Benedictine abbey of St. Allyre in Clermont, France. It may be the earliest complete codex in New England (for those who care about such things, this was Phillipps Manuscript 13842).

MS f. Med. 84 is a sumptuous mid-thirteenth-century Psalter from Flanders that begins with a calendar, seven full-page miniatures (a standard cycle illustrating the life of Christ), and a full-page historiated initial. Each page of the calendar includes a charming framed illustration of the Labor of the Month, for example Janus feasting in January and a peasant slaughtering a pig in December.

Janus Feasting (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 1)

Janus Feasting (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 1)

Slaughtering a Pig (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 6v)

Slaughtering a Pig (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 6v)

The full-page miniatures are beautifully executed and heavily gilt:

The Adoration of the Magi (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 8v)

The Adoration of the Magi (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 8v)

King David playing the harp (above) and defeating Goliath (below), inhabiting the letter B (for "Beatus vir," the beginning of Psalm 1) (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 14v)

King David playing the harp (above) and defeating Goliath (below), inhabiting the letter B (for “Beatus vir,” the beginning of Psalm 1) (BPL MS f. Med. 84, f. 14v)

Another stunner is MS q. Med. 81, known as “The Québriac Hours” for the family that owned it for some time. The manuscript was written and illustrated in Brittany around the year 1420 and includes two dozen miniatures. The patron of the manuscript, a woman in a green gown and fashionable howve headpiece, makes an appearance in two of them:

Mass of St. Gregory (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 143 r, slightly later addition)

The Mass of St. Gregory (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 143 r, slightly later addition)

The Mass of St. Julian of Le Mans (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 136v)

The Mass of St. Julian of Le Mans (BPL MS q. Med. 81, f. 136v)

One the later treasures of the collection is a set of fourteen full-page miniatures by the great Simon Bening (1483-1561), taken from a Spanish Rosary Psalter in all likelihood commissioned for Joan I (“the Mad”) of Castile around the year 1525. The miniatures, collectively BPL MS pb. Med. 35, have been published in facsimile.

The Resurrection, Simon Bening (BPL MS pb. Med. 35, f. 10v)

The Resurrection, Simon Bening (BPL MS pb. Med. 35, f. 10v)

I leave you with BPL MS pb. Med. 32, a beautifully illuminated manuscript of the French scroll chronicle I have christened La Chronique Anonyme Universelle, the subject of my forthcoming book. The 34-foot-long scroll was written in eastern France in the 1470s. Nothing is known of its early history until it was offered as lot 626 in the Barrois-Ashburnham sale of 1901, when it was acquired for the Library by Sydney Cockerell (Ashburnham actually owned two copies of the Chronique; the second, lot 627, is currently in private hands). The Chronique tells the story of mankind from Creation to the Middle Ages, illustrated by fifty-eight miniatures. Originally, the BPL copy would have concluded during the reign of the French King Louis XI, but it is lacking several sheets and ends imperfectly at Pope Urban VI (d. 1378), Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (r. 1014 – 1024 C.E.), the French King Philip IV (Philip the Fair) (r. 1285 – 1314 C.E.), the English King Henry III (r. 1216-1272) and Godfrey of Bouillon.

La Chronique Anonyme Universelle (BPL MS pb. Med. 32)

La Chronique Anonyme Universelle (BPL MS pb. Med. 32)

The text is formatted in parallel columns, beginning with Biblical and ancient history before eventually settling into a four-column format recording a Papal chronicle, the history of the Roman and Holy Roman empires, and the development of the kingdoms of France and England, with a brief detour into the Crusades. The intercolumnar spaces are filled with detailed and complex genealogical diagrams that trace the direct descent of the royal houses of Europe from Adam by way of Aeneas of Troy. En route from Genesis to medieval Europe, the narrative stops to tell the tales of such luminaries as Queen Esther, King Lear, King Arthur, and Joan of Arc (although the section that would have included The Maid of Orléans is lacking in this copy). The BPL scroll is among the finest of the 28 known copies and was likely produced for French nobility. The earliest manuscript of the Chronique was compiled around 1415, in the context of the Hundred Years War. This French world chronicle is therefore inherently Francophilic at the expense of the English, serving to re-enforce its intended audience’s sense of entitlement and inherent nobility while at the same time making the English out to be war-mongering charlatans.

A few details:

Godfrey of Bouillon conquers Jerusalem

Godfrey of Bouillon conquers Jerusalem

The Hewing of Nebuchadnezzar

The Hewing of Nebuchadnezzar

The Baptism of Clovis

The Baptism of Clovis

Brut slays the Giants

Brut slays the Giants

The scroll is one of the highlights of the collection, and for good reason. It appears that when the Trustees of the Boston Public Library charged Sydney Cockerell with buying “illuminated manuscripts,” he occasionally took them at their word.

Next time, we will visit one of my favorite Boston sites, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Manuscript Road Trip: The Show-Me State

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

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

Nobody really knows how Missouri came to be known as the “Show-Me State,” but I have my own interpretation of the state’s motto: Show me the manuscripts.

At last count, Missouri was home to 130 codices and 400 leaves in fifteen collections, most of which can be found on the I-70 corridor that runs across the state from Kansas City to St. Louis. Several of these are accessible through Digital Scriptorium: the University of Missouri – Columbia, Conception Abbey, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and St. Louis University. All of these collections have items worth pointing out, but I will focus on just a few: working map

U. Missouri - Columbia, Ellis Library, Special Collection, Fragmenta Manuscripta 1

U. Missouri – Columbia, Ellis Library, Special Collection, Fragmenta Manuscripta 1

The Ellis Library at the University of Missouri – Columbia owns a group of early fragments that once belonged to two collectors we have met before: Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 – 1872) and Sir Sydney Cockerell  (1867-1962). In fact, these leaves can be traced back as far as British antiquarian and bookseller John Bagford (1650s – 1716), a remarkable provenance indeed. The Bible fragment at left dates from the mid-tenth century and is not even the earliest of the group. That honor goes to the extraordinary fragment of Gregory the Great’s Moralia in Job shown below, attributed by the great paleographer Bernard Bischoff to Germany (perhaps Hersfeld), ca. 800.

U. Missouri - Columbia, Ellis Library, Special Collections, Fragmenta Manuscripta 8

U. Missouri – Columbia, Ellis Library, Special Collections, Fragmenta Manuscripta 8

One of the most interesting features of this fragment, aside from its age, is that it is written in an Anglo-Saxon hand but is thought to have originated in a German abbey, a remarkable mingling of scribal practices.

The Llangattock Breviary (St. Louis, Saint Louis University, Pius XII Memorial Library, Special Collections,  VFL MS 2r)

The Llangattock Breviary (St. Louis, Saint Louis University, Pius XII Memorial Library, Special Collections, VFL MS 2r)

In the impressive collection of the Pius XII Memorial Library at St. Louis University are found five leaves of a masterpiece of Renaissance illumination, a manuscript known as the Llangattock Breviary. Commissioned for the use of Leonello d’Este (1407-1450), Marchese of Ferrara, the manuscript’s name comes from a later owner, John Allan Rolls (1837-1912), Baron of Llangattock. The manuscript was bought by Goodspeeds Bookshop (Boston) in 1958 and subsequently broken up to be sold in pieces. Leaves can be found today in many collections, including Harvard University, U.C. Berkeley, the American Academy in Rome, Michigan State Univ., Univ. of South Carolina, the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library, Dartmouth College, the Museo Schifanoia in Ferrara, and the Bibliotheque Nationale de France (Ms. Lat. 9473, fol. 2). Leaves continue to come up for sale on a regular basis (here and here, for example). This is a manuscript that would be well worth the effort of digital reconstruction, a project just getting underway at St. Louis University. In the same building, the Vatican Film Library serves as a repository for microfilm of more than 37,000 manuscripts and is also the home of the St. Louis Conference on Manuscript Studies and the journal Manuscripta, making SLU an extremely important center for manuscript studies in North America.

Several dozen manuscript leaves were purchased in the mid-twentieth-century by the St. Louis Public Library. Here’s how they got there:

In the 1950s, a bookdealer from Kansas City, Missouri named Frank Glenn, under the auspices of a The Grolier Society (publishers of the well-known Book of Knowledge encyclopedia for children), assembled an exhibit of tablets, manuscripts and printed books meant to demonstrate the History of the Book. This was nothing new; similar exhibitions had taken place before, with similar pedagogical goals. But Glenn’s was different. Instead of making visitors come to a stationary exhibit space, or packing and shipping the exhibit from one venue to the next, Glenn installed the exhibit in an aluminum trailer and took it on the road.

MSW kids Glenn toured dozens of cities and small towns around the U.S. and Canada over a period of several years, arranging tours for schools, churches and civic groups. The exhibit was called “The Magic Carpet on Wheels,” described in the accompanying pamphlet as “…a tribute to Johann Gutenberg,…The Magic Carpet on Wheels tells the story of The Miracle of the Book with more than 100 original specimens ranging from Sumerian cylinders of 2500 B.C. to fine examples of contemporary graphic arts. The exhibit is intended as a commemoration of the Gutenberg invention and as a tribute to those early scribes whose clay tablets, papyrus scrolls and illuminated manuscripts have been gathered here…Those who see these treasures will appreciate the personal qualities of love, pride and skill that have gone into writing and bookmaking for the 4,500-year period encompassed by the collection. The Grolier society hopes the items in the display will bring renewed interest and deepened understanding and appreciation of good books.”

MCW thanks The exhibit was a great success, if the dozens of thank-you notes archived by the St. Louis Public Library are to be believed: “We enjoyed going to the book exhibit. It is the first time our room has done that. We think that you explained everything real nicely. We also thought that it was well organized. / The things that we liked best was the hornbook because it was interesting to see what it looked like then, the music book, because it was so big and we don’t have anything like that today, and the beautiful backs of the books that had gold and other decorations on them. We also enjoyed finding out how the gold was polished in the illuminated letters. Sincerely yours, Pupils of McElroy Dagg School (North Kansas City, MO).”

IMG_3307

Leaf from the Gottschalk Antiphonal (St. Louis Public Library, Grolier 44) (photo by Debra Cashion)

Some of the single leaves in the exhibit were purchased from Otto Ege, apparently one of his “Original Leaves from Famous Bibles” sets. Most came from other sources, including Number 44, a leaf of particular interest to me as it turned out to have come from the twelfth-century antiphonal that was the subject of my doctoral dissertation (and my first book).

In 1956, the manuscript leaves were purchased by the St. Louis Public Library.

MGW trailer

Show me the manuscripts, indeed.

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