Medieval manuscripts blog

17 posts from February 2012

15 February 2012

Turn the Pages of Our Royal Manuscripts

F. 256v
The Bedford Hours: London, British Library, MS Additional 18850, f. 256v

Recently added to our Royal Manuscripts website are more books viewable using the award-winning Turning the PagesTM software. "Turning the Pages" does exactly what it says: it enables you to scroll through the leaves of a virtual book, and you can also zoom in on the finer details.

Four manuscripts in our exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination (11 November 2011-13 March 2012) are available on Turning the Pages. Sit back in the comfort of your living room or office and browse the pages of some of our beautiful books.

1.  Henry VIII's Psalter

2.  Medieval Bestiary

3.  The Bedford Hours

4.  Genealogical Chronicle of the English Kings

Psalter of King Henry VIII: London, British Library, MS Royal 2 A. XVI, f. 3r

More British Library books available on Turning the Pages can be viewed here. They include Handel's Messiah, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, and a selection of sketches by Leonardo da Vinci.

14 February 2012

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day from the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog!


E107582 Royal 10 E. iv f. 139Detail of a bas-de-page scene of a woman at a spinning wheel being kissed by a man, from the Smithfield Decretals, Southern France (Toulouse?) with marginal decoration added in England, last quarter of the 13th century or 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal 10 E. iv, f. 139



K144599 Stowe 17 f. 273

Detail of a marginal miniature of the King of Love sitting in a tree with two musicians, aiming his arrows at a couple sitting below, from the Maastricht Hours, Southern Netherlands (Liège), 1st quarter of the 14th century, Stowe 17, f. 273



E091010 Harley 4425

Detail of a miniature of Amour (Love) kissing the Lover, from a Roman de la Rose, Southern Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1490 – c. 1500, Harley 4425, f. 24


E047621a Harley 3567 f. 149

Detail of a miniature of the Triumph of Love, attributed to the Filocolo Master, from Petrarch’s Rime and Trionfi, Northern Italy (Mantua), c. 1465, Harley 3567, f. 149

12 February 2012

Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts Online

'Duke of Sussex's German Pentateuch', Germany, 14th century (Additional MS 15282, f. 296v). Initial-word panel Shir (song) inhabited by a bear and a unicorn.

Last year we told you about the British Library's project to catalogue our Hebrew illuminated manuscripts. Here is an update with a list of the books in question.

The British Library holds one of the world's most important collections of Hebrew manuscripts, of which about 300 have some decoration. All of the illuminated manuscripts and those with significant decoration are now in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. Their inclusion was made possible through grants from the American Trust for the British Library in memory of William T. Golden, the Harold Hyam Wingate Foundation, Roger and Julie Baskes, and an anonymous donor. We're pleased to announce that more images will be made available in the next upload to the site.

Jacob ben Asher, Arbaah Turim (The Four Pillars), Italy, 1475 (Harley MS 5716, f. 8). Frontispiece to the first pillar of Arbaah Turim, Orah Hayyim (The Way of Life). The initial-word panel Barukh (blessed) is inhabited by three white rabbits. The lower medallion contains the coat of arms of Joab Emmanuel.

These Hebrew illuminated manuscripts range in date from the 10th to the 18th century, and their geographical division is just as wide, encompassing Europe, Northern Africa and the East. Most of them contain religious works, such as biblical and liturgical texts, but there are also a number of legal, philosophical and scientific books. You can read more here about the decoration and script of our Hebrew manuscripts.

'Golden Haggadah', Catalonia, 14th century (Additional MS 27210, f. 12v). Detail of a miniature of the plague of lice.

From the 13th century, Jewish books were examined by Christian censors in order to eliminate passages that were considered blasphemous. The first official list of prohibited Hebrew books (Index autorum et librorum prohibitorum) was published in 1559, but the expurgation or destruction of certain Hebrew books had started much earlier. Official revisers, usually converted Jews, were appointed to revise Hebrew books and implement the restrictions. Many of the Hebrew items in the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts were present in Italy at some point and include evidence that they were examined by censors.

'First Gaster Bible', Egypt, 10th century (Oriental MS 9879, f. 14v). Text page with punctuated Oriental script, ornamental space fillers and marginal decoration.

'The Northern French Miscellany', France, 1277-14th century (Additional MS 11639, f. 521). Full-page miniature of Noah's Ark with the raven seated on the ark and the dove returning with a sprig of olive in its beak.

'Barcelona Haggadah', Barcelona, c. 1340 (Additional MS 14761, f. 28v). Historiated initial-word panel Ha lahma aniya (The Bread of Affliction), and a miniature depicting a family by the Seder table, the master of the house placing the basket of unleavened bread on the head of one of his children.

'Duke of Sussex's Italian Bible', Ferrara?, 15th century (Additional MS 15251, f. 313v). Decorated initial-word panel at the beginning of 1 Chronicles.

'Lisbon Bible', Lisbon, 1483 (Oriental MS 2626, f. 13v). Detail of a full border.

Pentateuch, Germany, 14th century (Oriental MS 2696, f. 257v). Initial-word panel with gold letters, pen-flourishing and medallions inhabited by hybrids, at the beginning of Numbers.

'Coburg Pentateuch', Coburg, 1390-1396 (Additional MS 19776, f. 54v). Miniature of a man sitting on a bench holding a scroll escorted by a dog, a dragon and a lion. The two scrolls contain masoretic notes.

'Tripartite Mahzor', Germany, c. 1322 (Additional MS 22413, f. 3). Historiated initial-word panel of the Receiving the Law with Moses stretching his hands for the tablets, and Aaron and the Israelites waiting at the foot of the mountain.

Series of tables, France or Spain, 15th century (Oriental MS 11796, f. 57v). Astronomical and calendrical table.

Here is a list of Hebrew manuscripts in the British Library's Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts:

Add 9405

Biblical readings from a festival prayer book (mahzor): Germany, 1309

Add 9406

Biblical readings from a festival prayer book (mahzor): Germany, 1309

Add 10456

Festival prayer book (mahzor), Ashkenazi rite: Germany or Eastern Mediterranean, 1349

Add 11639

Miscellany of biblical and other texts ('The Northern French Miscellany'): France, 1277–14th century

Add 11657

Former and Latter Prophets (Neviim): Italy, 14th century

Add 11830

Festival prayer book (mahzor) for Rosh ha-Shanah, Ashkenazi rite: Germany, before 1384

Add 14759

Levi ben Gershon, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Avignon, 1429

Add 14761

Haggadah, liturgical poems and biblical readings for Passover ('Barcelona Haggadah'), Sephardic rite: Barcelona, c. 1340

Add 14762

Eleazar of Worms, Haggadah for Passover ('Ashkenazi Haggadah'), German rite: Ulm?, c. 1460

Add 14763

Maimonides and others, Miscellany of philosophical works: Viterbo, 1273

Add 15250

Bible ('Duke of Sussex's Catalan Bible') with masorah magna and parva: Catalonia, 14th century

Add 15251

Bible ('Duke of Sussex's Italian Bible') with masorah magna and parva: Ferrara?, 1448 or 1498

Add 15252

Duke of Sussex Bible with masorah magna and parva: Catalonia, 14th century

Add 15282

Pentateuch ('Duke of Sussex's German Pentateuch'): Germany, 14th century

Add 15283

Pentateuch, Haftarot and the Five Scrolls (Hamesh megillot): Lisbon, 15th century

Add 15306

Pentateuch with masorah magna and parva: Spain, 14th or 15th century

Add 15423

Pentateuch ('Duke of Sussex's Italian Pentateuch'): Florence, 1441-1467

Add 16577

Festival prayer book, Italian rite: Italy, 15th century

Add 16916

Prayers for Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, Ashkenazi rite ('London Days of Awe Mahzor'): Germany, 13th or 14th century

Add 17745

Zohar on Genesis: Italy, 15th century

Add 18424

Works of Rabbi Samson ben Tzadoq and others: Germany, 1307

Add 18684

Works of Isaac of Corbeil and others: France, 1392

Add 18724

Isaac Abravanel, Haggadah for Passover: Hamburg, 1740

Add 18731

Nahmanides, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Isola, 1491

Add 18970

Hebrew Grammar: Spain, 15th century

Add 19064

Festival prayer book (mahzor), Italian rite: Italy, 15th century

Add 19776

Pentateuch ('Coburg Pentateuch') with the Five Scrolls (Hamesh megillot), Haftarot, and grammatical treatises: Coburg, 1390-1396

Add 19943

Nathan ben Joel Palquera, Tzorei ha-guf (The balms of the body): Italy, 1447

Add 19944

Festival prayer book (mahzor), Italian rite, vol. 1: Florence, 1441

Add 19945

Festival prayer book (mahzor), Italian rite, vol. 2: Florence, 1441

Add 21160

Pentateuch ('Yonah Pentateuch'): Germany, 13th century

Add 21967

Hebrew translation of the first two books of Avicenna's Canon: Rome, 15th century

Add 22092

Gan Elohim (The Garden of God): France, 1403

Add 22413

Joseph Kara, Festival prayer book for Shavuot (Feast of Weeks) and Sukkot (Feast of the Tabernacles), German rite ('Tripartite Mahzor'): Germany, c. 1322

Add 26878

Solomon ben Isaac, Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos and Rashi's commentary: France, 14th century

Add 26879

Solomon ben Isaac, Former and Latter Prophets with masorah magna and parva, Targum Jonathan and Rashi's commentary: France?, 13th century

Add 26896

Festival prayer book (mahzor), Ashkenazi rite ('Tinted Mahzor'): Germany, 14th century

Add 26897

Festival prayer book (mahzor) for Rosh ha-Shanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkot, Ashkenazi rite: Germany, 14th century

Add 26933

Nahmanides, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Spain or Italy, 15th century

Add 26957

Prayer book (siddur), Italian rite: Italy, 1469

Add 26968

Prayer book (Forli Siddur) for the entire year, Italian rite: Italy, 1383

Add 26970

Rabbi Isaac ben Meir of Düren, Festival prayer book: Germany, 1308-1314

Add 26974

Sefer Maalot ha-Middot (The Book on Degrees of Virtue) by Jehiel ben Jekuthiel: Italy, 1287

Add 27029

Prayer book, Italian rite: Italy, 1501

Add 27126

Prayer book, Sephardic rite: Spain, 14th or 15th century

Add 27137

Jacob ben Asher, Fourth Book of Arba'ah Turim: Hoshen ha-Mishpat ('The Breastplate of Judgment'): Italy, 1360

Add 27167

Pentateuch ('Almanzi Pentateuch') with Haftarot and Five Scrolls (Hamesh megillot): Lisbon, 15th century

Add 27210

Haggadah for Passover ('Golden Haggadah'): Catalonia, 14th century

Egerton 872

Solomon ben Isaac ('Rashi'), Commentary on the Pentateuch with the Haftarot on the Five Scrolls: Germany, 1341

Harley 1528

Bible with masorah magna and parva ('Harley Catalan Bible'): Catalonia, 14th century

Harley 1861

Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi), Pentateuch with Targum and Rashi's commentary: France, 14th century



Harley 5531

Joseph ben Judah Zark, Baal ha-Lashon (The Master of the Language): Italy, 1474

Harley 5648

Baruch ben Isaac of Worms, Sefer ha-Terumah: Germany, 1253/1254

Harley 5680

Books Three and Five of the Canon of Avicenna in Hebrew translation: Spain or Italy, 1479

Harley 5686

Festival prayer book (mahzor): Italy, 1427–1466

Harley 5698

Maimonides, Lisbon Mishneh Torah, vol. 1: Lisbon, 1471-1472

Harley 5699

Maimonides, Lisbon Mishneh Torah, vol. 2: Lisbon, 1471-1472

Harley 5709

Solomon ben Isaac (Rashi), Pentateuch: France, 14th century

Harley 5710

Bible with masorah magna and parva: Italy, 13th century

Harley 5711

Bible with masorah magna and parva: Italy, 13th century

Harley 5716

Jacob ben Asher, Arbaah Turim (The Four Pillars): Italy, 1475

Harley 5717

Jacob ben Asher and Maimonides, Even ha-Ezer (The Stone of Help) and Hoshen Mishpat (The Breastplate of Judgement) of Arbaah Turim (The Four Pillars): Italy, 1475

Harley 5773

Pentateuch ('London Catalan Pentateuch') with masorah magna and parva: Catalonia, 14th century

Harley 5774

Prophets with masorah magna and parva: Castellon d'Ampurias, 1396

Harley 5775

Hagiographa with masorah magna and parva: Castellon d'Ampurias, 1396

Harley 7586A

Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nevukhim) in Samuel ibn Tibbon's translation: Italy, 1283

Harley 7586B

Maimonides, Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nevukhim) in Samuel ibn Tibbon's translation: Italy, 13th century

Harley 7621

Pentateuch with Rashi's commentary and Targum Onkelos : Italy, 15th century

King's 1

Bible ('King's Bible'): Catalonia, 14th century

Oriental 42

Festival prayer book (mahzor) for Rosh ha-Shanah and the Yom Kippur, Ashkenazi rite ('Dragon's Head Mahzor'): Germany, 14th century

Oriental 1404

Haggadah with commentary and liturgical poems for Passover ('Brother Haggadah'): Catalonia, 14th century

Oriental 1424

Biblical readings and liturgical poems for Passover: Catalonia, 14th century

Oriental 1467

Fragment of the Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos and masorah magna and parva: Persia, 11th-12th century

Oriental 1487

Abraham ibn Ezra, Commentary on the Pentateuch: Iberian Peninsula or Italy, 15th century

Oriental 2091

Former and Latter Prophets and Hagiographa, with masorah magna and parva: Germany, 13th century

Oriental 2201

Bible with masorah ('First Ibn Merwas Bible'): Toledo, 1300

Oriental 2211

Saadia ben Joseph (Saadia gaon), The Latter Prophets: Yemen, 1475

Oriental 2348

Pentateuch with masorah magna and parva: Yemen, 1469

Oriental 2363

Pentateuch with Targum Onkelos and masorah magna and parva: Persia or Babylonia, 11th-12th century

Oriental 2365

Bible with masorah magna and parva: Yemen, 14th century

Oriental 2373

A portion of the Hagiographa with masorah magna and parva: Yemen, 13th century

Oriental 2396

Solomon ibn Gabirol and others, Miscellany of ethical texts: Italy, 1382

Oriental 2451

Pentateuch with masorah magna and parva: Persia, 1483

Oriental 2493

Portions from the Exodus with Arabic translation and commentary: Persia, Babylonia or Egypt, 14th century

Oriental 2540

Fragments from Exodus: Palestine or Egypt, 10th century

Oriental 2626

Bible ('Lisbon Bible') with masorah magna and parva: Lisbon, 1483

Oriental 2627

Bible ('Lisbon Bible') with masorah magna and parva: Lisbon, 15th century

Oriental 2628

Bible ('Lisbon Bible') with masorah magna and parva: Lisbon, 15th century

Oriental 2696

Pentateuch, Five Scrolls (Hamesh megillot) and Haftarot with masorah and commentary: Germany, 14th century

Oriental 2733

Festival prayer book (mahzor) for Rosh ha-Shanah, Franco-German rite: France, 14th century

Oriental 2736

Prayer book (siddur), Italian rite: Bertinoro, 1390

Oriental 2737

Haggadah for Passover ('Hispano-Moresque Haggadah'): Castile, c. 1300

Oriental 2884

Haggadah for Passover ('Sister Haggadah'): Barcelona, 14th century

Oriental 4227

Bible with masorah: France, 14th century

Oriental 5024

Decisions of Isaiah of Trani the Younger (Pisqei Rabbi Yeshayah Aharon): Italy, 1374

Oriental 5600

Festival prayer book (mahzor) for Rosh ha-Shanah and Yom Kippur, North African rite: North Africa, 15th century

Oriental 9879

Biblical fragments ('First Gaster Bible') with masorah magna and parva (sections from Psalms): Egypt, 10th century

Oriental 9880

Biblical fragments ('Second Gaster Bible') with masorah magna and parva (Fragments from the Pentateuch): Egypt, 11th or 12th century

Oriental 9900

Parts of the Scriptures (Ketuvim): Italy, 15th century

Oriental 10186

Prayer book with Haggadah and Pirqei Avot, Ashkenazi rite: Italy, 15th century

Oriental 10752

Prayer book (siddur), Italian rite: Italy, 15th century

Oriental 11594

Festival prayer book (mahzor) for the whole year, Sephardic rite, with the commentary of Joseph Zaddik: Spain, 15th century

Oriental 11796

Series of calendrial and astronomical tables: France or Spain, 15th century

Oriental 11924

Prayer book, Italian rite: Italy, 15th century

Oriental 14061

Maimonides, The Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nevukhim): Catalonia, 14th century

Sloane 3173

Haggadah for Passover with the commentaries of Isaac Abravanel ('Leipnik Haggadah'): Germany, 1740

Stowe 30

Prayers: England, 1578

Yates Thompson 31

Matfré Ermengau of Béziers, Breviari d'Amor (Catalan prose version): Catalonia, 14th century


10 February 2012

Fancy a Trip to Paris?

The temperature in London is currently touching zero, and the British Library is swarming with visitors to our major exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination. Only 33 days more to go – don't forget that it closes on 13 March 2012. Images of all the manuscripts on show will continue to feature on our Facebook albums (and no, you don't need a Facebook account to view them).


Meanwhile, United Kingdom residents might like to enter our Royal competition. One lucky person will win a luxury trip to Paris for two, comprising return travel with Eurostar (including transfers), three nights at the 4* Hotel Westminster, a two-day Paris Museum Pass giving access to more than 60 museums, monuments and galleries, a Seine river cruise and a carnet of Metro tickets. A big thank you to Kirker Holidays for organising the trip.

A downside is that Paris is even colder than London as we write ...

There's one simple question (clue: the answer begins with Henry), and make sure you check the terms and conditions at the foot of the competition page. Good luck! Hopefully we'll see you soon in London.

09 February 2012

The King of Beasts

F60101-33 Royal 12 c xix f. 6

Decorated initial 'B'(estiarum) and a miniature of lions breathing life into their cubs, at the beginning of the entry 'De natura leonis', from a bestiary with theological texts, central or northern England, c. 1200-10, Royal 12 C. xix, f. 6

One of the most popular items in our 2012 Royal exhibition was this bestiary (Royal 12 C. xix), which was on display beside another similar example (the so-called Rochester bestiary, Royal 12 F. xiii).  A bestiary is a book of beasts, both real and imagined (for example, see below for a miniature of a dragon and elephant). Bestiaries in Latin first began to appear in England at the beginning of the 12th century.  They were based ultimately on a late-antique text called the Physiologus (The Naturalist), supplemented by material from a variety of sources such as the Naturalis historia of Pliny the Elder (d. 79), the Historia animalium of Aristotle (d. 322 BC), the Hexaemeron of St Ambrose (d. 399) and the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville (d. 636).  These extracts were blended together to form a compendium of natural history with a particular emphasis on allegory and the moralisations that could be drawn from animal behaviour. 

The number and types of animals included in bestiaries could vary greatly, but many copies begin with a description of the lion, the king of beasts, and the section on the lion provides a good example of the morally didactic aspect of the bestiary text.  It starts with a discussion of the lions' habitat and nature, and goes on to explain the scene in the miniature above.  Lion cubs, it tells us, are born dead, and remain that way for three days.  After this time, the cubs' father breathes upon them, bringing them back to life - a very clear analogy to God's resurrection of Christ. 

F60101-65 Royal 12 C xix f. 62

Detail of a miniature of an elephant with a dragon on its back, at the beginning of the entry for 'Draco', from a bestiary with theological texts, central or northern England, c. 1200-10, Royal 12 C. xix, f. 62

The bestiary's format lends itself quite well to illumination, and many of the surviving examples are illustrated.  This copy is one of the grandest survivals, with eighty miniatures of animals painted against gold backgrounds; it is also one of the first to include such elaborate, full-colour paintings.  It is not clear for whom this book was produced, but research has revealed that it is a very close (almost exact) copy of the Worksop Bestiary (Pierpont Morgan Library M.81), which was produced in the North Midlands c. 1185.  The Royal bestiary dates from c. 1200-1210, and was created in roughly the same region.  Judging from the expense that must have been incurred in its production, it seems likely that it was intended for an aristocratic, if not royal, layman (or woman) who could either read Latin or had a chaplain to do it for him and his household.  Little is known about the subsequent history of the manuscript until it was purchased by the antiquarian John Theyer in the 17th century, whose collection was purchased by Charles II and included in the Old Royal Library.

For more information on bestiaries in general and the British Library's holdings in particular, please see the virtual exhibition Books of Beasts in the British Library: the Medieval Bestiary and its Context, which was written by Royal project intern Emily Runde.  A highlights version of the Royal bestiary is also available for purchase from the British Library's eBook treasures.

- Royal project team

07 February 2012

Sir Gawain and The Romance of the Middle Ages


Recently opened at the Bodleian Library in Oxford, and on until 13 May 2012, is the exhibition The Romance of the Middle Ages. One of the key exhibits is an item familiar to many medievalists – the British Library's unique manuscript of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.


Made in England towards the end of the 14th century, the manuscript in question (Cotton MS Nero A. X, ff. 41–130) contains the only surviving medieval copies of four important Middle English poems: Pearl; Cleanness; Patience; and, most famously, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The whole is written in a single, idiosyncratic hand (perhaps that of the author?), and flanking each poem is a series of full-page miniatures, painted in a consistent if exceedingly limited palette. (One critic described the manuscript as containing "several illuminations, coarsely executed".)


We're delighted that visitors to Oxford will be able to see the manuscript for themselves, and it can also be viewed on the exhibition website. On occasion, the Gawain-manuscript (sometimes known as the Pearl-manuscript) can be seen in the British Library's permanent exhibition gallery (Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library).

You can read more about Pearl here.

Don't forget to follow us on Twitter: @blmedieval

05 February 2012

Love Letters at the British Library

What do Anne Boleyn, Horatio Nelson, Charlotte Brontë and Oscar Wilde have in common?

The answer is that love letters in their own hands survive at the British Library, which for the first time have been gathered together in a single volume, Love Letters: 2000 Years of Romance.

In the margin of this Book of Hours, made in Bruges c. 1500, is a note from Anne Boleyn to Henry VIII, reading 'Be daly prove you shall me fynde / To be to you bothe lovynge and kynde.' London, British Library, MS King's 9, f. 66v.

Edited by Andrea Clarke, Curator of Early Modern Historical Manuscripts at the British Library, Love Letters contains missives dating from 168 BC (Isaias to her husband, Hephaestion) to c. 1980 (a poem written by Ted Hughes to Sylvia Plath), and features images and transcriptions of each letter. Among them is the oldest Valentine, written by Margery Brews to John Paston III in February 1477. See these articles in The Daily Mail ("Charlotte Bronte's lost love letters to married professor were preserved by his wife") and The Daily Telegraph ("Charlotte Bronte's lost love letters revealed"), which focus on one letter in the collection.


On Saturday, 11 February, Dr Clarke will introduce some of these handwritten love letters in a special event at the British Library (14.30-16.00), where she will be joined by acclaimed biographer Anne Sebba.

Love Letters: 2000 Years of Romance (ISBN 9780712358255) is currently available on special offer from the British Library shop (£7.00, normally £10.00). Here is the full list of contents:

1: Letter from Isaias to her husband, Hephaestion, 29 August 168 BC

2: Margery Brews to John Paston III, February 1477

3: Prince Arthur to Katherine of Aragon, 5 October 1499

4: Pierre Sala, Petit Livre d’Amour (letter to Marguerite Bullioud), c.1500

5: Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII, love notes in a Book of Hours, c.1528

6: Katherine Parr to Henry VIII, July 1544

7: Earl of Essex to Elizabeth I, 18 October 1591

8: Sir Thomas Baskerville to his wife, Mary, 21 August 1595

9: Thomas Knyvett to his wife, Katherine, 26 November 1621

10: George Villiers to James I, 29 August 1623

11: Dorothy Osbourne to Sir William Temple, 15/16 October 1653

12: Sir John Fenwick to his wife, Mary, January 1697

13: Vanessa [Esther van Homrigh] to Jonathan Swift, 1714

14: Horatio Nelson’s last letter to Lady Emma Hamilton, 19 October 1805

15: Charles Dickens to his future wife, Catherine Hogarth, May 1835

16: Charlotte Brontë to Professor Constantin Héger, 18 November 1844

17: Oscar Wilde to Lord Alfred Douglas, De Profundis, January 1897

18: Gordon Bottomley to Emily Burton, 17 October 1899

19: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43 from Sonnets from the Portuguese, c. 1846

20: Christina Rossetti, Valentine poem to her mother, 1884

21: Rupert Brooke to Cathleen Nesbitt, 1913

22: Roger Keyes to his wife, Eva, 10 December 1914

23: Mervyn Peake to his wife, Maeve Gilmore, early 1940s

24: Ted Hughes, poem to Sylvia Plath, c.1980

25: Ralph Richardson to his wife, Meriel Forbes, 1964-70

03 February 2012

Musical Illuminations: Medieval Music with The Sixteen

We are very pleased to tell all our readers about an upcoming special concert by the noted choral ensemble The Sixteen, who will perform at the British Library on 10 February. The Sixteen, led by their conductor and founder Harry Christophers, have been recording and performing worldwide for more than thirty-two years, and they are particularly noted for their interpretations of early English polyphony and other masterpieces of the medieval and Renaissance periods. 

The event on 10 February will include the opportunity for an after-hours visit to our exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, which has inspired The Sixteen's new CD, 'The Genius of Illumination.'  Following this, the ensemble will present a programme of late medieval music entitled 'Musical Illuminations', which will include pieces by William Cornysh, Robert Davy, and even King Henry VIII himself.  A download of the full programme, including texts and translations, is available here.

This concert has unfortunately already sold out, but those who are unable to come to the performance can buy the CD in the British Library shop or online here.

Those who are fortunate enough to have tickets should be aware that the concert will be held in the Entrance Hall of the British Library (rather than the Conference Centre, where events are usually  hosted).  This will be an unseated performance; doors will open at 19.30 and time will be allowed to visit the Royal exhibition.  The Sixteen will perform from 20.30 until 21.20. 

On a related note, there are only about 6 weeks remaining to see the exhibition Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination, which will close on 11 March.  Last weekend saw record numbers of visitors, and we expect it to be even busier in the final days, so please plan your visit accordingly!

You can also now follow us on Twitter:  @blmedieval