Tag Archives: Thomas Phillipps

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).”


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.


Filed under Medieval Manuscripts

Manuscript Road Trip: Monks and Minnesota

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

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

Minnesota  is one of the most beautiful regions of the United States, its extensive woods dotted with thousands of glacial lakes. There aren’t quite as many manuscripts as there are lakes, of course, but there are more than enough to warrant a visit. We’ll start in Minneapolis, at the University of Minnesota.

Blog mapThe department of Special Collections at UMN holds nineteen codices and sixty-three leaves, many of which have been digitized:

Ege’s Fifty Leaves portfolio: http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/taxonomy/term/735 (some of these should look familiar to you by now!)

Singles leaves: http://umedia.lib.umn.edu/taxonomy/term/736 (some of these happen to be Ege leaves…can you spot them?)

At last count, the James Ford Bell Library, also at the University of Minnesota, was home to 27 codices, 186 documents, and nine maps/atlases. The Bell Library collects works having to do with “international trade in the pre-modern era”; hence, many of the pre-1600 manuscripts are cartographic or documentary. Pre-1600 manuscripts can also be found in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and the Bakken Museum of electricity. Pose_lake_Minnesota

That’s all just a prologue to introduce you to some of the main players in the story I really want to tell you today, a story about Vincent of Beauvais, Cistercian monks, manuscripts lost and manuscripts found. A caveat: if this were a formal publication, it would include detailed bibliography, lengthy footnotes, full shelfmarks, and catalogue references. Since it is a casual blog, I’ll relegate all that to a note at the end for those who are interested.

Bakken Vincent

(photo courtesy of The Bakken)

Our story begins in thirteenth-century Belgium. Around the year 1280, a monk named Johannes de Resbais began work on a massive project, collaborating with his Cistercian brethren in the monastic scriptorium at the abbey of Cambron. They were creating what would eventually become a set of seven volumes comprising more than 1,500 leaves, an early and important copy of the Speculum Maius of Vincent of Beauvais.

Vincent of Beauvais – the great encyclopedist of the Middle Ages – lived in France in the first half of the thirteenth century. His major work, the Speculum Maius (or Great Mirror) is nothing less than a compendium of all knowledge, in three parts: the Speculum Naturale, the Speculum Doctrinale, and the Speculum Historiale. The monks of Cambron copied the Speculum Historiale in four volumes and the Speculum Naturale in three (for my purposes, SH I-IV and SN I-III).

Bakken BookXXI-detail

(photo courtesy of The Bakken)

The result was a beautiful set of large books filled with exquisite penwork initials in a distinctive Cistercian style. Johannes signed two of the volumes (“Johannes de Resbais wrote this; pray for him, beloved brothers, men of God”), and most include the fourteenth-century ex libris “Liber sanctae mariae de camberonae” (“This book belongs to St. Mary of Cambron”). All seven volumes were still in the abbey as late as 1782, when they were recorded in a library catalogue. It is at that moment in history – during the Napoleonic Wars and the attendant closure of monasteries and confiscation of their goods – that the manuscripts began to scatter:

Cambron ex libris

The fate of the seven Cambron manuscripts of the Speculum Maius

The fate of the Cambron volumes of the Speculum Maius

SH III was lost, probably destroyed.

SN III was acquired by the British Library in 1845, where it is now MS Add. 15583.

SH II/IV and SN I/II were acquired in 1836 by the great collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792 – 1872) in whose collection they were collectively known as MS 8753. Phillipps already owned SH I, having purchased it from the Abbey about a decade before; it was his MS 335. Did he know that the four volumes he bought in 1836 were sisters to the volume he already owned? Your guess is as good as mine.

After Phillipps’ death in 1872, the five volumes in his collection were further divided. SH I was acquired by the Royal Library of Belgium in 1888 (it’s MS BR II.941). The four remaining Phillipps manuscripts were sold together at an 1897 auction as a single lot to dealer Bernard Quaritch.

Quaritch seems to have had a hard time selling the volumes. He offered them for sale in 1898 for £60 (here’s the catalogue) and again in 1904 for the same price (here’s that catalogue), selling them at last in 1907 to noted bibliophile Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962). Cockerell sold SN I and II to his friend C. S. St. John Hornby for £40 in 1907; he kept the other two until 1956, when he sold them to New York bookdealer H. P Kraus for £500 (a whopping profit). Kraus sold them in 1957 to the John Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota, where they can still be found under the shelfmark 1280 oVi.

To recap, we have watched as two volumes (SH II and SH IV) made their way from Belgium to England to New York to Minnesota. But we’re not done yet.

Hornby kept the remaining two manuscripts (SN I and II) until 1946, when he sold them for £100 to British collector John R. Abbey (1894-1969). In 1975, the volumes were sold at auction by Sotheby’s London to a dealer named Jeremy Norman, who bought them for £4000 (another whopping profit, this time for the Abbey estate) on behalf of…The Bakken! After a journey of hundreds of years and thousands of miles, four of the seven Cambron volumes have been reunited in Minneapolis, in libraries just a few miles apart.

But enough about Cistercians, let’s talk about Benedictines. The rich history of Benedictine monasticism in Minnesota has resulted in a few medieval manuscripts winding up at institutions such as St. Olaf College in Northfield and the College of St. Catherine in St. Paul. But some of the most important manuscript work this side of the Atlantic has been done by the monks at St. John’s University in Collegeville, at the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library.

The Hill Museum and Manuscript Library was founded with the mission of preserving monastic manuscripts through imaging. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, monks from HMML fanned out across Europe photographing manuscripts in situ, producing thousands of reels of microfilm stored in multiple copies in multiple locations. If the manuscripts themselves were to ever be lost, they would at least be preserved on film. As photography has evolved, so has the monks’ technology. HMML’s mission now focuses on digitization of manuscripts beyond Europe as the monks seek to document threatened collections in areas such as Ethiopia, India and Syria. They have preserved more than 100,000 handwritten books and documents on film and in megabytes, and anyone who cares about literary heritage owes them a great debt of gratitude.

The monks of HMML at work with their technical team

The monks of HMML at work with their technical team (photos by permission of HMML)

Before we turn south and head for Iowa, here are some additional details and bibliography about the Cambron volumes, for those of you interested in such things (my thanks to William P. Stoneman of Harvard’s Houghton Library for sharing his research on the Cockerell volumes):

SH 1:  Bibiliothèque Royale de Bruxelles, BR II 941

SH II, IV: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Univ. of Minnesota, James Ford Bell Library, 1280 oVi

SN I, II: Minneapolis, Minnesota, Bakken Library

SN III: British Library, MS Add. 15583

Robert Plancke, Les catalogues de manuscrits de l’ancienne Abbaye de Cambron (Mons et Frameries, 1938), 60 (no. 202).

John R. Abbey sale, Sotheby’s London, 25 March 1975, lot 2948.

Alison Stones, “The Minnesota Vincent of Beauvais Manuscript and Cistercian Thirteenth-Century Book Decoration”, The James Ford Bell Lectures, 1977, No.14, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

Gregory G. Guzman, “The Cambron Manuscript of the Speculum historiale”, Manuscripta XIII (1969), 95-104, and  “Another Volume of the Cambron Manuscript of Vincent of Beauvais’ Speculum historiale”, Scriptorium XXXVII (1983), 112-119.

Judith A. Overmier and John Edward Senior, Books and Manuscripts of The Bakken (Metuchen, 1992), 28.

Alison Stones, “A Note on Some Re-discovered Vincent of Beauvais Volumes”, Vincent of Beauvais Newsletter XXVI (2001), 10-13.

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Filed under Medieval Manuscripts