THE BRITISH LIBRARY

Medieval manuscripts blog

14 posts from March 2015

29 March 2015

The Anglo-Saxon Origins of Medieval Justice

Our major Magna Carta exhibition is now open in London, but for those of you who can't come to the British Library in person, over the coming months we're going to showcase some of the exhibits on this blog. You may imagine that our story starts in the years immediately before the Great Charter was granted in 1215; but in fact the earliest items in our exhibition pre-date the Norman Conquest of England ...

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Miniature of a king dictating the law (London, British Library, Royal MS 11 D IX, f. 6r)

‘No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land. To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.’

So reads the most famous clause of Magna Carta, still valid in English law. But what do we know about the concept of justice before the 13th century?

The earliest surviving Anglo-Saxon law code was actually issued around the year 600 by King Æthelberht of Kent (r. 560–616), and was written in Old English. Meanwhile, the Bible provided models for good Christian kingship, as demonstrated in this 11th-century manuscript of the Hexateuch (the first 6 books of the Bible), on show in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy.

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The Old English Hexateuch (London, British Library, Cotton MS Claudius B IV, f. 59r)

Here is the biblical story of Pharaoh sentencing his chief baker to be hanged (Genesis 40:21-22). However, the 11th-century artist has dressed the figures in costumes of his own day: the king in the centre, holding a sword and a sceptre or rod, is surrounded by his counsellors; the condemned man, on the right, is being strung from the gallows. According to a 14th-century catalogue, this beautifully illustrated manuscript was kept in the monastery library at St Augustine’s Canterbury on the first shelf of its first bookcase. You can see this page in our Magna Carta exhibition, and the whole manuscript can be viewed on our Digital Manuscripts website.

The Ten Commandments were a particularly important model for the drafting of Anglo-Saxon law codes. They are referenced in the laws of Alfred the Great (r. 871–899) and formed part of the preface to his law book, grounding the secular laws in biblical precedents. God’s law is also specifically referenced in the longest Anglo-Saxon law code, which begins with the line, ‘I desire that justice be promoted and every injustice suppressed, that every illegality be eradicated from this land with the utmost diligence, and the law of God promoted’. This was issued by King Cnut (r. 1016–1035) with the advice of his counsellors. The text was drafted by Archbishop Wulfstan of York (d. 1023), and one of the eight surviving medieval manuscripts containing the text was produced in either York or Worcester in the 11th century. It was probably owned by the archbishop himself, and may contain his own annotations.

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The Law Code II Cnut (London, British Library, Cotton MS Nero A I, f. 33r)

This item is also on display in our Magna Carta exhibition. When you see it in person, you realise that this pocket-sized book was deliberately made to be easily portable, perhaps by Archbishop Wulfstan himself.

It's quickly apparent that the concept of justice in medieval England was firmly established before King John came to the throne. We'll review why Magna Carta came to be granted in some of our later blogposts (look out for them on Twitter, @BLMedieval with the hashtag #MagnaCarta).

You can view the Old English Hexateuch and King Cnut's lawcode alongside other items relating to the history and legacy of Magna Carta in Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, on at the British Library until 1 September 2015. They are also featured on our new Magna Carta website (Old English Hexateuch and lawcode of King Cnut).

28 March 2015

The Greek Manuscripts of Robert Curzon, Part II

(For Part I, see this post).

Today we continue our journey through the Greek manuscripts acquired by the 19th-century bibliophile and traveller Robert Curzon.

Add MS 39604. Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 344), with notes of lessons and names of months in Arabic. 12th century, ff 1-24 being added in the 14th century. Illuminated headpieces and initials. 16th-17th century binding of wooden boards covered with black leather, St. Andrew's cross in panel, blind-tooled, with a leather clasp. An image of the fore-edge, including the clasp, can be seen on Digitised Manuscripts as f v recto. Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba near Jerusalem for 20 pieces of gold, and used by Curzon “for a pillow during 3 nights, when I was wandering on the banks of the Jordan” (f i recto).

Add MS 39605. Sermons on the Gospels of John and Matthew, by the author of the Theognosia (formerly attributed to Gregory of Nyssa), possibly Metrophanes of Smyrna. Early 10th century. Ornamental pen-and-ink head-piece on f 1 recto. 19th century binding of red velvet. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f ii recto).

 

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Add MS 39606, f 1v. Miniature of Gregory of Nazianzus seated on Christ’s right, each with a book.

Add MS 39606. Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, followed by extracts from Pseudo-Nonnus, Scholia mythologica. 11th century. Illuminated head-pieces and initials, paragraph initials in gold. On f 1v is a full-page miniature, much-rubbed, of Gregory seated on Christ's right, each with a book. 19th century red velvet binding by J. Clarke. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39607. John Chrysostom, In epistulam I ad Corinthios homiliae (TLG 2062.156), imperfect, lacking the end of hom. 26 (expl. ὄνειδος πολλῷ μᾶλ[λον, PG 61.222) and the beginning of hom. 27 (inc. μετὰ ταῦτα κατέβη, PG 61.223), due to the loss of two leaves after f 214. Preceded by a table of contents, ff 1r-v, imperfect at the beginning, and a summary, ff 2r-3v. Hom. 24 (ff 193r-200r) differs from the version in PG. 12th century. Head-pieces tinted yellow, initials slightly tinted. 19th century binding of blue velvet. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39608. John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 1-33 (TLG 2062.112). 13th century. 19th century binding of blue velvet. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39609. Isaiah of Scetis (Isaiah of Gaza), Asceticon (CPG 5555). 11th century, with some 18th-century additions on paper. Illuminated head-pieces and initials, other initials and titles in gold. Hybrid full leather Greek/western binding of goatskin over wooden boards, with blind-tooled central stamp and corner pieces. Two pins on the front board fore-edge, and two pairs of three holes through the back board for straps. Writing on the upper edge, which can be seen on Digitised Manuscripts as f iii recto. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39610. John Climacus, Scala paradisi (TLG 2907.001) and Liber ad Pastorem (CPG 7853). 11th century. Illuminated head-pieces and initials. Drawing of the Ladder of Ascent on f 206r. Binding of blind-tooled leather over birch boards. Writing on the upper edge, which can be seen on Digitised Manuscripts as f iii recto. Acquired at the Simonopetra Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39611. Heirmologion, with musical notation, arranged according to ἤχοι or modes. 17th century. Modern western binding of brown leather. Presented to Curzon by the Vice-Consul at Suez in 1834 (f i recto).

Add MS 39612. Revelation (Gregory-Aland 2041), with brief marginal notes and kephalaia, probably by the original scribe, but less formally written. The quire-numbers on ff 1v and 10v show the manuscript formed part of a larger volume, possibly Athos, Karakallou 121 (268) (Gregory-Aland 1040). 14th century. Modern western binding of dark morocco. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f ii recto).

 

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Add MS 39613, f 30r. Illuminated initial at the beginning of the Greek text of the Divine Liturgy of John Chrysostom.

Add MS 39613. John Chrysostom, Divine Liturgy, in a Latin translation, ff 2r-29v, followed by the Greek original, ff 30r-59r. The Latin text differs from that in printed editions. Likely created in France, probably Paris, between 1502-1506. Illuminated initials (ff 2r, 30r) and border (f 2r) of late French style. 16th century binding of light brown leather, blind-tooled, the panel formed by fillets alternating with four rows of impressions of a stamp of interlaced arcs of lattice work, five dots within the interlacement. The border is formed of lozenges enclosing roses. Brass clasps (one broken). Gilt and gauffred edges. The boards are from 16th century printed books: a Latin grammar with examples in French, a Latin servicebook, and another book in French. No indication is given of where Curzon acquired the item (either in the MS or in Curzon’s Catalogue), but the manuscript was in Rheims in the 16th and 17th centuries, and was quite possibly acquired there.

Add MS 39614. Xenophon, Hellenica (TLG 0032.001). Early 16th century, written by Damianus Guidotus at Venice, who was also the scribe of the following two manuscripts. Add MSS 39614-39616 were acquired from a priest of the Church of San Francesco della Vigna in Venice (f i recto). Five more volumes of the same set as in the possession of the Rev. Walter Sneyd of Denton, Oxford (afterwards of Keele Hall), whose library was sold at Sotheby's in December 1903: see lots 48, 52, 379, 380.

Add MS 39615. Hermogenes, De constitutionibus (Περὶ στάσεων) (TLG 0592.002). Early 16th century, of the same origin and provenance as the previous item.

Add MS 39616. [Plutarch], De liberis educandis (TLG 0007.067). Early 16th century, of the same origin and provenance as Add MSS 39614-39615.

Add MS 39617. Demosthenes, Orationes, with the hypotheses of Libanius, and occasional scholia and interlinear glosses. 15th century. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39618. Theological and religious works. 16th century. Acquired at the Great Monastery at Meteora in Thessaly (ff i recto-ii verso).

Add MS 39619 (not digitised). Rhetorical and other works in Greek. Written in 1712 (f 3r). Acquired in Therapia (f i recto). Add MS 39619-39622 bear the 18th-century ownership marks of one Paisius of Amapeia.

Add MS 39620 (not digitised). Theological works of George Koressios. Late 17th century. Acquired in Therapia (f i recto).

Add MS 39621 (not digitised). Commentary on the 4th book of Theodorus Gaza's Introduction to Greek Grammar, based on the commentary of Elias Andreas of Bordeaux. Late 17th century. Decorated headpieces and initials. Acquired in Therapia (f i recto).

Add MS 39622 (not digitised). Rhetorical treatises in Greek by Alexander Mavrocordatos and Anastasios Papavassilopoulos, with interlinear and marginal notes. Early 18th century. Acquired in Therapia (f i recto).

Add MS 39623. Fragments from a Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 1742). Late 14th century. Acquired at the Karakallou Monastery on Mount Athos (f i recto).

Add MS 39624 (not digitised) Collection of classical and Christian Greek poems for school use, with interlinear glosses in Modern Greek, possibly a Mathematarion. This manuscript is not listed in Curzon's 1849 Catalogue. Written in 1739 (f 206r). Original binding of brown leather, blind-tooled diagonally. On the front cover is a faded stamp of the Crucifixion, on the back a mitred saint with scroll (possibly Prophet David). Acquired at the Monastery of St Sabba near Jerusalem (f ii recto).

This overview of Curzon’s Greek manuscripts can only go so far in outlining the range of fascinating material to be found within them – not least in Curzon’s own notes on their acquisition, which occasionally extend to several pages. While Curzon himself has been the subject of a number of studies, his manuscripts as a collection have not received as much attention as they deserve – some key items are listed below in the bibliography, but there is much work to be done, particularly on the insights they provide us with into Byzantine and post-Byzantine binding practices.

Bibliography:

Robert Curzon, Catalogue of Materials for Writing, Early Writings on Tablets and Stones, Rolled and Other Manuscripts and Oriental Manuscript Books in the Library of the Honourable Robert Curzon, at Parham in the County of Sussex (London: Nicol, 1849) [Only 50 copies printed. Curzon’s personal annotated copy is now Add MS 64098)].

Robert Curzon, Visits to Monasteries in the Levant (London: John Murray, 1849)

Holland, M., ‘Robert Curzon, Traveller and Book Collector’, Bulletin of the John Rylands University Library of Manchester, 65 (1983), 123–57

Fraser, Ian H. C., The Heir of Parham: Robert Curzon 14th Baron Zouche (Harleston: Paradigm, 1986)

Cormack, Robin, ‘“A Gentleman”s Book’: Attitudes of Robert Curzon’, in Through the Looking Glass: Byzantium through British Eyes, ed. by Robin Cormack and Elizabeth Jeffreys, Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies Publication, 7 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2000), pp. 147–62

- Cillian O’Hogan

26 March 2015

Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project: The final seventy-five manuscripts go online

The third phase of the Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project has now drawn to a close. In this update, we give details of the last manuscripts to be digitised in this phase. In the coming weeks, a number of additional posts will provide guides to specific themes and topics within the collection, and further outreach projects relating to the Greek manuscripts will be developed over the next year. We are most grateful to the generous benefactors who have supported the project, especially the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and also many others, including the A. G. Leventis Foundation, Sam Fogg, the Sylvia Ioannou Foundation, the Thriplow Charitable Trust, and the Friends of the British Library.

We would also like to thank the many colleagues in the Library who contributed to this phase, especially Ann Tomalak, from Conservation; Neil McCowlen, Kristin Phelps, and Alex White, from Imaging Services; and Sarah J. Biggs and James Freeman, from Ancient, Medieval, and Early Modern Manuscripts. Their hard work (outlined in blogs here, here, and here) was essential to the timely completion of the project.

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Add MS 39613, f 30r. Opening of John Chrysostom, Divine Liturgy. France, probably Paris, between 1502 and 1506.

Add MS 34060, Collections of canons, with theological, liturgical, and historical pieces, and a few letters bearing on the relations between the Eastern and Western Churches. 12th and 15th centuries.

Add MS 39584, Parchment roll containing Ἀκολουθία τῶν Ἐγκαινίων: Office for the dedication of a church, with connected or similar offices. 14th century.

Add MS 39613, John Chrysostom, Divine Liturgy, in a Latin translation, ff 2r-29v, followed by the Greek original, ff 30r-59r. The Latin text differs from that in printed editions. France, probably Paris, between 1502 and 1506. Illuminated initials (ff 2r, 30r) and border (f 2r) of late French style. 16th century binding of light brown leather, blind-tooled, the panel formed by fillets alternating with four rows of impressions of a stamp of interlaced arcs of lattice work, five dots within the interlacement. The border is formed of lozenges enclosing roses. Brass clasps (one broken). Gilt and gauffred edges. The boards are from 16th century printed books: a Latin grammar with examples in French, a Latin servicebook, and another book in French.

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Add MS 40755, f 21r. Miniature of St Basil the Great. Eastern Mediterranean (Demitrash, near Brusa, Anatolia), 1600.

Add MS 40755, The Divine Liturgies. Illuminated headpieces on ff 2r, 21r, and 46r, containing figures of Saints John Chrysostom, Basil the Great, and Gregory, standing under arches surrounded by a decorative border. An unfinished miniature of St Basil occurs on f 61r. Historiated initials on ff 9v, 14v, 19r, 27v, 28r, 31r, 44r, and numerous initials in gold and colours throughout. Written by the scribe Michael at the request of the patriarch Macarius  in 1600, at the monastery of the Virgin at Demitrash, near Brusa. The former (17th-century) binding of crimson velvet over millboard with striped linen beneath, is kept separately.

Add MS 41660, Works by Ephraem the Syrian. 11th-12th century. A former 17th-18th century binding of yellow-brown blind-stamped leather over wooden boards is preserved separately under Add MS 41660/1.

Add MS 82951, Justin Martyr, Opera. Created in Venice in 1541, probably at the request of Guillaume Pelicier.

Add MS 82952, Maximus the Confessor, Preface to Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite; Pseudo-Dionysius the Areopagite, De caelesti hierarchia and De divinis nominibus; David the Invincible, Prolegomena Philosophiae. Italy, 16th century.

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Add MS 82953, f 1r. Opening of Pseudo-Gregentius, Dialexis. Eastern Mediterranean, 16th century.

Add MS 82953, Pseudo-Gregentius, Dialexis, and a collection of extracts from the Old Testament. 16th century.

Arundel MS 529, Theological extracts and letters, many relating to the Ecumenical Councils. Palimpsest, re-using at least five older manuscripts. Italy, S. (Salento, perhaps Otranto or Gallipoli). Dated 7 June 1111.

Arundel MS 539, Eusebius of Caesarea, Historia Ecclesiastica. Decorated headpieces in red and black ink (ff 2r, 164r). Small simple black initials highlighted in red. 1st half of the 16th century.

Arundel MS 542, Works of St John Chrysostom (some now attributed to Severianus Gabalensis). 10th century. Large foliate, geometric, or decorated headpieces in colours and gold with enclosed titles in red majuscules, and large coloured initials below at the beginning of texts. Simple headpiece with titles in red uncials, and large decorated initials in colour. Simple endpieces. Small initials in brown. Marginal drawing of a cross (f 223r). The old Arundel binding is kept separately as Arundel MS 542/1.

Arundel MS 543, St John Chrysostom, In Matthaeum homiliae. 11th century. 3 pink foliate headpieces and large decorated pink initials (ff 138v, 180v, and 187v) added in the 13th century as replacement folios. Original simple brown headpieces, and small simple pink or brown initials.

Arundel MS 550, Notebook of Johannes Cuno, containing a number of extracts from Greek and Latin authors, notes on grammar and metre, and other items. Italy, N. (Padua), c. 1506-1508.

Burney MS 34, Catena on the Octateuch (Rahlfs 424), and additional theological texts. Italy, N. E. (Veneto?), mid-16th century.

Burney MS 35, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Interpretatio in Psalmos. Italy, Central. Written during Lent 1548.

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Burney MS 44/1, f 1r. Foliage headpiece at the beginning of the life of St Barbara. Eastern Mediterranean, 2nd half of the 11th century-1st half of the 12th century.

Burney MS 44, Lives of martyrs celebrated from 4 to 31 Dec, in two volumes, Burney MS 44/1 and Burney MS 44/2. All except that for St John of Damascus are in the versions attributed to Symeon Metaphrastes. Completed in July 1184. Foliage headpiece, in red and brown (volume I, f 1r). Other simple headpieces. Large red initials, some decorated with foliate shapes. Small red or gold initials.

Burney MS 46, Works of Athanasius of Alexandria, in two volumes, Burney MS 46/1 and Burney MS 46/2. 2nd half of the 11th century-1st half of the 12th century.

Burney MS 47, St John Chrysostom, In Joannem (homiliae 1-45). Illuminated headpieces at the beginning of homilies 1-17. 11th century.

Burney MS 48, Commentaries of St John Chrysostom on the Pauline letters, followed by the Catholic Epistles (Gregory-Aland 643; Scrivener act 225; von Soden α 1402, X40), in two volumes, Burney MS 48/1 and Burney MS 48/2. 11th-12th century.

Burney MS 49, Homilies of St John Chrysostom on selected Pauline Epistles. Eastern Mediterranean (Corfu), 1430.

Burney MS 50, Apophthegmata Patrum (Collectio alphabetica), in two volumes, Burney MS 50/1 and Burney MS 50/2. Eastern Mediterranean (Crete) 1361-1362.

Burney MS 51, Two fragments of the works of St Gregory of Nazianzus, the first dating from the late 10th or 11th century, the second dating from the 14th century. Fragment I possibly from Constantinople.

Burney MS 52, Homilies and sermons of St Gregory of Nyssa. 12th-13th century.

Burney MS 53, Patristic miscellany, containing texts by Origen, Eustathius, Gregory of Nyssa, and the emperor Zeno. Italy, S. (Naples) or Central (Rome), c. 1580.

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Burney MS 54, f 4r. Diagram of the palms of hands relating to the cycles of the sun. Eastern Mediterranean (Ephesus?) 1573.

Burney MS 54, Collection of liturgical readings, prayers, verses, and tables. Includes the Liturgies of John Chrysostom and Basil of Caesarea. Eastern Mediterranean (Ephesus?) 1573. 7 diagrams, including the palms of hands relating to the cycles of the sun and the moon, stylised crosses, and geometric shapes (ff 2v, 4r, 5v, 6r, 49r, 49v, 51r). 6 architectural frames of a rounded arch framing a blank space (ff 16v, 18v, 20v, 24v (unfinished), 29v, 36v). Foliate headpieces in colours with birds and plants on gold grounds (ff 54r, 80r). Other foliate, woven, or geometric headpieces (ff 12r, 16r, 18r, 20r, 24r, 117v, 119r, 133v, 148r) in colours. Large zoomorphic initials, usually of birds in blue and red, or blue, red, and green. Large red or brown initials, many of or with foliate forms, some with other colours. Small red or brown initials. Knotted decorative forms.

Burney MS 73, Demetrius Cydones, Homily on St Lawrence (BHG3 978), followed by notes on the history of Jerusalem in Latin. Italy, N.?, 4th quarter of the 15th century.

Burney MS 76, Theodore Gaza, Introductio grammatica, Book I. Paris, 2nd half of the 15th century.

Burney MS 80, Heraclides Lembus' extracts from Aristotle, Politeia, extracts from Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, and Aelian, De natura animalium, and Epictetus, Enchiridion. 2nd half of the 16th century.

Burney MS 81, Heron of Alexandria, Pneumatica, with extensive Latin marginal annotations and many pen diagrams. Italy, mid-16th century.

Burney MS 87, Isocrates, Ad Nicoclem (TLG 0010.013), imperfect, with interlinear Latin translation. Italy, Central (Rome), 4th quarter of the 16th century-1st quarter of the 17th century.

Burney MS 94, Grammatical and medical treatises, including works by Manuel Moschopoulos, Thomas Magister, Rufus of Ephesus, and Oribasius of Pergamon. Italy, N. E. (Venice), 2nd half of the 15th century.

Burney MS 99, Greek compositions by Sir Ralph Winwood (b. 1562/3, d. 1617). England (Oxford), written between 1578 and 1589.

Burney MS 104. Commentary on and introduction to Ptolemy's Tetrabiblos. Written in 1543, possibly in Paris.

Burney MS 105, Pappas of Alexandria, Synagoge, imperfect, including extracts from the Mechanica of Heron of Alexandria. Italy, 2nd half of the 16th century.

Burney MS 112, 113, and 114, Religious texts copied by Matthew, Metropolites of Ephesus, in three volumes. Eastern Mediterranean (Ephesus), 2nd quarter of the 14th century.

Burney MS 127, Nicolas Floyd of Winchester College, Ραψῳδία βιβλικὰ. Passages from the Bible converted into Greek and Latin parallel verses. Winchester, 1652.

Burney MS 402, Collection of Greek and Latin inscriptions copied by Anthony Askew, M.D., in the Levant and Greece, with notes on their situation, size, state of preservation, etc. Completed on 24 January 1748.

Burney MS 408, Palimpsest, the upper (14th-century) text being homilies of St John Chrysostom on Matthew and John, and the lower fragments of a 10th century Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 338).

Egerton MS 265, Collection of novellae and other legal texts by Emperors Leo VI the Wise, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Nicephorus II Phocas, Cosmas Magister and Eustathius Romaeus. 15th century.

Egerton MS 266, Michael Attaliates, Πόνημα νομικὸν ἤτοι σύνοψις πραγματική (TLG 3079.002). The text from f 45r onwards differs from that in the TLG. The copyist writes on f 56r that the prototype was imperfect: 'τοῦτο περισσὸν ἦν, ἔλιπε δὲ τὸ τέλος'. Marginal comments (mainly in Greek, and a few in Latin) have been added throughout the text by at least two later hands. 15th century.

Egerton MS 622, Poems by Gregory of Nazianzus with interlinear glosses in the form of a mathematarion, and a dictionary copied and compiled by Basileios Μοσκοβόρρωτος. 16th century, incorporating parts of book printed in 1727.

Egerton MS 2339, Patristic florilegium; Thekaras, Horologion and hymns; prayers, imperfect. 16th century.

Egerton MS 2474, Collection of various texts from Pseudo-Plutarch, Synesius of Cyrene, Amphilochius of Iconium, Gregory of Nazianzus, Nicetas David and John Zonaras, with interlinear glosses and marginal scholia. Italy?, 17th century.

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Egerton MS 2610, f 4r. Canon tables. Eastern Mediterranean, 11th century.

Egerton MS 2610, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 700). Canon tables in architectural frames in gold and colours (ff 3v-4r, 5v-6r, 7v-8r, 9v-10r). 4 miniatures of Evangelist portraits in colours on gold grounds (ff 12v, 91v, 144v, 230v). Large headpieces in colours and gold, with foliate patterns and birds (f 13r), and 4 large initials in colours and gold, at the beginning of the Gospels (ff 13r, 92r, 145r, 231r). Initials in gold. Simple head- and tailpieces in gold. Chrysography. 11th century.

Egerton MS 2626, Sozomen, Historia ecclesiastica (TLG 2048.001); Evagrius Scholasticus, Historia ecclesiastica (TLG 2733.001). Italy, Central (Rome), 1524.

Egerton MS 2707, Collection of ecclesiastical canons and other related texts. 13th century.

Egerton MS 2783, Four Gospels, imperfect (Gregory-Aland 714). 12th-13th century. 7 full-page miniatures in colours on gold grounds of the symbols of the Evangelists and Evangelist portraits (lacking a portrait of Luke) (ff 13r, 13v, 106r, 106v, 166v, 264r, 264v). Canon tables in red in frames, with foliate decoration (ff 5r-9v). Large headpieces in red with foliate patterns. Large initials in red with penwork decoration. Small initials in red. Simple headpieces in red. Text and rubrics in red. 18th century binding of brown stamped leather, with blind tooling and gold edges. On the inside of each cover there is a portion of a 13th-century manuscript of the Sententiæ of Peter Lombard.

Egerton MS 3155, Leitourgikon, containing the Liturgies of St John Chrysostom (ff 3r-21r), St Basil the Great (ff 22r-48r), and the Presanctified (ff 49r-58v). Eastern Mediterranean (Constantinople), 1644.

Egerton MS 3157, Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopulus, Synaxaria; Ephraem the Syrian, Sermo in pulcherrimum Ioseph, imperfect. 4th quarter of the 14th century. 33 drawings in ink and watercolours. Headpieces in brown and red, some with braided decoration. Headpiece and large decorated initial in watercolours (f 96r). Simple endpieces in red or brown. Initials in red, some with penwork decoration. Rubrics in red. The former contemporary binding of wooden boards and tooled leather, with metal bosses on each side kept separately as Egerton MS 3157/1.

Harley MS 5785, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 151), with ecphonetic notation.  12th century. 3 evangelist portraits in colours and gold of Matthew, Mark, and Luke (ff 66v, 143v, 187v). 18 headpieces in colours and gold with animals, birds, and/or floral and foliate motifs (ff 1r, 67r, 104r, 144r, 202v, 234r, 246r, 274r, 281r, 298v, 313r, 320v, 325v, 328v, 332r, 340r, 344r, 353r). 1 very large initial in colours and gold (f 289v). Major initials in colours and gold, some with anthropomorphic designs (e.g. 3v). Titles in gold capitals written over red. Marginal notations in red.

Harley MS 5796, New Testament (Gregory-Aland 444; Scrivener evan. 444, Act. 153, Paul 240; von Soden δ 551). 1st half of the 15th century. Headpieces with geometric and foliate decoration and initials with foliate decoration in gold and/or colours (ff 2r, 44r, 73r, 121r, 163r). Titles in display capitals in gold or red (ff 2r, 44r, 73r, 121r, 163r). Rubrics, decorated initials and scholia in red.

Harley MS 7509, Collection of copies of Greek inscriptions made in Asia Minor by William Sherard (1659-1728), Consul for the Turkey Company at Smyrna. 1st quarter of the 18th century.

Lansdowne MS 355, Miscellaneous letters of Greek patriarchs, metropolitans, etc., together with letters to John Covel, D.D. and his copies and drafts. 1652-1701.

Royal MS 1 B II, Old Testament: Major and Minor Prophets of the Septuagint version (Rahlfs 22). 1st quarter of the 12th century. Headpieces, initials and titles in carmine ink.

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Royal MS 2 A VI, f 154r. Illuminated headpiece at the start of Psalm 77. Eastern Mediterranean, 12th century.

Royal MS 2 A VI, Psalter (Rahlfs 175). 12th century. Illuminated headpieces at the start of Psalms 1 and 77 (ff 22r, 154r).

Royal MS 16 C XI, Galen, De diebus decretoriis libri III. Italy, 1st quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 C XII,Astronomical works. 1544-3rd quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 C XIII, Photius, Bibliotheca Codex 239, and [Andronicus], De Passionibus. 2nd half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 C XV,  Two works attributed to Gregory of Nyssa, with marginal notes by Isaac Casaubon and Patrick Young. 3rd quarter of the 16th century. Also digitised is the old Royal binding of this manuscript, now held as Royal MS 16 C XV/1.

Royal MS 16 C XVI, Artemidorus Capito, De urinis, and Hippocrates, Prognosticon, preceded by medical notes, mostly in Latin. 1st quarter of the 16th century, Germany?

Royal MS 16 D I, Works by or attributed to St Gregory of Nyssa. 13th century.

Royal MS 16 D III A and B, John Tzetzes, Antehomerica, with an imperfect Latin translation by Petrus Morellus. 4th quarter of the 16th century, France (Loches). Formerly owned by Isaac Casaubon.

Royal MS 16 D IV, Indices to the scholia of Tzetzes on Lycophron. Italy, 4th quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D V, St Gregory of Nazianzus, Contra Julianum imperatorem 1-2 (Orationes 4-5). Italy, Central (Rome), 2nd half of the 16th century.

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Royal MS 16 D VI, f 170r. Opening of St Gregory of Nazianzus, In Aegyptiorum adventum. Italy, Central (Rome), 2nd half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D VI, St Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes 7, 8, 18, and 34, with the commentary of Elias of Crete. Italy, Central (Rome), 2nd half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D VIII, Acts of the First Council of Nicaea, compiled by Gelasius of Cyzicus, followed by two works by Athanasius. Italy, 4th quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XI, St Gregory of Nyssa, selected works. Italy, N. (Venice or Trento), 2nd half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XV, Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea. Italy, N. (Venice or Trento), 3rd quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XVII, Clement of Alexandria, Paedagogus, Hymnus Christi servatoris, and an anonymous iambic hymn. 1st half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XVIII, Eustathius Macrembolites, Hysmene et Hysmenias; Achilles Tatius, Leucippe et Clitophon; and [Eustathius Antiochenus], Commentarius in hexaemeron. The works are from three separate manuscripts, bound together at some point after 1697. 1st half of the 16th century.

Sloane MS 324, Michael Apostolis, Oratio ad Discipulos Suos, autograph copy. Eastern Mediterranean (Crete), 1460?

Sloane MS 745, Hippiatrica or Horse Medicine. 13th century.

Sloane MS 1835, Extracts from Evagrius Scholasticus, Historia Ecclesiastica (TLG 2733.001; CPG 7500), with Latin translations by Petrus Joannes Olivarius, preceded by his dedication to Henry VIII. England?, 2nd quarter of the 16th century.

 

- Cillian O’Hogan

24 March 2015

Magna Carta Website is Now Live

The British Library is a hive of Magna Carta-inspired activity at the moment. Our major exhibition, Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy, has been open for just over a week, and has been packed every day of its run. A catalogue featuring introductory essays and descriptions and illustrations of almost every object in the show has been published by the Library. And we've also hosted the first events to accompany the exhibition, including talks by renowned Magna Carta expert Professor Nicholas Vincent (University of East Anglia) and Julian Harrison and Alexander Lock, members of the curatorial team.

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We're delighted to announce that our dedicated Magna Carta website is now live. It features a whole wealth of Magna Carta-related material, including:

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Liberty Suspended (1817), on show in our Magna Carta exhibition and featured on our website

We are particularly proud of our new animations, and you can watch them both here. The first is titled What is Magna Carta?, and deals with the medieval story of what is one of the most famous documents in the world. The second animation, 800 Years of Magna Carta, focuses on the legacy of the Great Charter. Our animations were made by Beakus, and were scripted by members of the British Library's curatorial and Learning teams.

 

 

 

We're really hopeful that our fantastic website will become the key resource for finding out more about the history and legacy of Magna Carta. We like it, and we hope that you will, too!

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy is open at the British Library until 1 September 2015. Entry costs £12, under 18s enter free and other concessions are available.

21 March 2015

True Nobility and Plagiarism

Being a royal librarian could be a lucrative business in the fifteenth century, as the career of Quentin Poulet illustrates. Born in Lille, he went from obscure scribe in a book-producer’s confraternity in Bruges in 1477-78, to keeper of the library of Henry VII in 1492. From the few records of his life that survive, we know that on 26th July 1497, he was paid £23 sterling for ‘a boke’ with a bonus of 10 marks on top from the royal purse. The ‘boke’ in question may well be Royal MS 19 C VIII, a copy of the Imaginacion de la vraie noblesse, which has just been photographed and uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts. 

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Miniature showing the young knight observing an archer and a carter as models for princely conduct, surrounded by a naturalistic scatter border, from the Imaginacion de la vraie noblesse, London and Bruges, c. 1496-97,
Royal MS 19 C VIII, f. 41r 

One might imagine why Henry was so chuffed with the present. The text is a knightly ‘mirror’ text, intended to offer moral guidance and instruction in courtly behaviour to its aristocratic reader – and what better reader than the ten-year-old Arthur Tudor, prince of Wales? For the heir apparent to Henry VII, this book could plausibly have formed part of his schooling. It offers edifying exempla: from the three aspects of nobility – love of God, love of justice, and love of good reputation – personified as three women, to the virtues embodied by the archer (his skill of focusing on a target) and the carter (his determination, or drive if you’re in the mood for a pun!). It warns how poor counsellors can lead a prince astray, while illustrating the divine right of kings in ruling over their realms. 

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Detail of the colophon of Quentin Poulet,
Royal MS 19 C VIII, f. 97v 

Poulet copied the manuscript himself, writing the text in an elegant Bâtarde script – a style of handwriting common among manuscripts produced under the patronage of the Burgundian court (as illustrated by the copy of the Mystère de la Vengeance made c. 1465 for Philip the Good, acquired last year by the British Library and now Add MS 89066/1 and Add MS 89066/2). 

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Miniature of Lady Imagination taking her leave of the young knight at the end of his pilgrimage, with the city of Halle in the background,
Royal MS 19 C VIII, f. 90r 

The text was not widely known in England: the only other known insular copy was made for Richard Neville, earl of Warwick, in 1464 (now Geneva, Bibliothèque publique et universitaire, MS fr. 166). Its obscurity may explain why Poulet was able to pass the work off as his own. The narrative frame of a pilgrimage from Lille to Halle (which town is illustrated in the background of many of the miniatures), and its attribution to a member of a prominent Flanders family, Hugues of Lannoy, also explain the text’s appeal to Poulet. 

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Detail of an historiated initial depicting the presentation of the manuscript by Quentin Poulet to Henry VII,
Royal MS 19 C VIII, f. 1r 

Poulet cannily repackaged the text, changing the title slightly from the Enseignement to the Imaginacion de la vraie noblesse, prefacing it with his own dedicatory introduction, and incorporating his name into the colophon at the end (which records the manuscript’s completion at the royal palace of Sheen on 30th June 1496). A historiated initial at the beginning of the preface depicts Poulet kneeling before Henry VII and offering him the book. 

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Miniature showing the young knight a man with severed arms, illustrative of his lack of honour, surrounded by a naturalistic scatter border and animal-rebus on the name of Quentin Poulet,
Royal MS 19 C VIII, f. 32v – this image may be familiar to you from our Valentine’s Day post, An Illustrated Guide to Medieval Love 

Poulet also had his name encoded into the decoration, in the form of a chicken (‘un poulet’, in French) emerging from a shell in one of the scatter borders that surround the miniatures. These borders contain naturalistic flowers and plants (pansies, roses, carnations and strawberry sprigs), animals, birds and insects (a bear, a jay, a grouse, an owl, a fly and a butterfly), and a cheeky monkey that is aping the gestures of the young knight (for more monkey business, take a look at our earlier post, Apes Pulling Shapes). 

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Miniature showing Lady Imagination introducing the young knight to the Three Aspects of Nobility, embodied as young women, surrounded by a naturalistic scatter border,
Royal MS 19 C VIII, f. 11r 

The manuscript contains six large illustrations, which were completed by the Bruges illuminator known to modern scholarship as the ‘Master of the Prayer Books of Around 1500’. (A note was added in pencil to f. 81v by Frederic Madden in 1845, drawing attention to the loss of the following leaf, which presumably contained a seventh miniature). His work is also found in Harley MS 4425, featured on this blog in our posts Sex and Death in the Roman de la Rose and The Height of Fashion, and Royal MS 16 F II, a compilation including poetry by Charles of Orléans.  The British Library also holds one other copy of the Enseignement – Add MS 15469 – another illustrated but much less lavish production on paper.

- James Freeman

19 March 2015

Photography in the Manuscripts Reading Room

 

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Royal MS 6 E VI, f 329r. Detail of an historiated initial 'C'(olor) of an artist mixing colours. England, S. E. (London), c. 1360-c. 1375

 

 

Many of our readers will have seen the announcement that, from Monday March 16th, self-service photography will be permitted in the Manuscripts Reading Room, as well as in other British Library Reading Rooms. You can find details of this new policy in this blog post from Living Knowledge, the British Library's corporate blog. Since this announcement was made, we have received a number of enquiries about how this process will work in practice, and this blog post sets out answers to some of the most common questions we have received. While some of what is said below will apply to other collections, this has been written specifically with readers of ancient, medieval, and early modern manuscripts in mind. In particular, given that there are unlikely to be any copyright issues or data protection issues with pre-1600 material, there is no discussion of those topics here, but readers seeking to photograph more recent material should familiarise themselves with the regulations governing copyright and data protection.

We would ask that all readers wishing to take photographs of manuscripts consult the excellent blog post by our colleagues in Collection Care, which outlines how best to take photographs safely and without endangering collection items. In particular, readers are asked to hold their camera or phone with both hands and not to attempt to hold down pages with their hands. Snakes and other weights are readily available in the Reading Room and should be used instead.

Not all manuscripts can be photographed. Any item for which a letter of introduction is required, or for which special permission is needed before the item can be issued, cannot be photographed in the Reading Room. These items will be issued along with a RED “No Photography” slip. In addition, certain groups of material, including the papyri, ostraka, and seals, cannot be photographed at present. If you have ordered an item that cannot be photographed, it will be issued to you along with a YELLOW “No Photography” slip. Items that can be photographed will be issued with a GREEN slip. We continue to work to identify material that is not presently fit for photography, and there may be some errors along the way. If you believe that you have received a “No Photography” slip in error, or, conversely, that the item should not be photographed, but was not issued with a slip, please record this by contacting the Manuscripts and Maps Reference Team.

In addition, to avoid excessive handling of collection items, we would ask that readers check to see whether items have already been digitised in full on Digitised Manuscripts, or in part on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, as the digital coverage may make self-service photography unnecessary.

What can I do with the images I take? Can I share them on Twitter?

Photographs are intended for personal research use only and not for commercial use. If you would like to include an image in a journal article, thesis, or book, you will need to make use of the images made available under a Creative Commons Licence on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts, or speak to our colleagues in Imaging Services. However, we realise that there is a great benefit in sharing images widely on Twitter and on other social media sites, and while this could be considered a form of publication, we have no objection to self-service photographs being shared in this way, as long as details of the manuscript’s shelfmark are included and if possible a link is given back to the British Library website or catalogue entry.

I want to take photographs of a select manuscript which has not been digitised.

At present, these are out of scope for reader photography, because the majority of select and restricted material is fragile or otherwise vulnerable. As always you can order images of this from Imaging Services. Many of these manuscripts have already been digitised in full on Digitised Manuscripts, or in part on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts,

Why are the papyri/ostraka/seals out of scope?

These items have been excluded on the grounds that if a camera or phone were dropped on them, it could break or otherwise damage the item.

You may have additional questions that are not covered here, and we would advise readers that these guidelines will continue to be refined and developed in response to feedback. Please contact the Manuscripts and Maps reference team as a first port of call, and if necessary, your question will be forwarded to a curator for answer.

 

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Yates Thompson MS 4, f 14v. Historiated initial 'I'(n) with Luke painting the Virgin, at the beginning of his Gospel. Netherlands, S. (Bruges), c. 1460.

 

 

18 March 2015

Magna Carta: A Curators' Eye-View

Now that our Magna Carta exhibition has finally opened to the public (phew!), we'd like to tell you about a talk by the curators, taking place at the British Library this Friday, 20 March. 'Magna Carta: A Curators' Eye-View' will review how this major exhibition was put together, looking at everything from devising the storyline to choosing the objects and writing the catalogue.

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Revolution Pillar, a parody of the politician Charles James Fox, loaned by the British Museum to the British Library's Magna Carta exhibition

The talk, presented by Julian Harrison (one of the exhibition curators) and Alex Lock (our researcher), is aimed at everyone interested in public history, museum studies and the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. Julian and his fellow curator, Claire Breay, have spent four years putting the exhibition together, and also edited the catalogue which accompanies it, featuring a picture of almost every exhibit; Alex joined the team in January 2013, and played a crucial role in researching and choosing the items on show, besides contributing two major essays and other entries to the catalogue.

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A 19th-century Worcester porcelain inkstand in the shape of King John's tomb, on loan from the British Museum in our Magna Carta exhibition

We hope that as many people as possible can join us on Friday for this behind-the-scenes look at our Magna Carta show. We're currently putting together the images for our presentation ... we promise you an entertaining and visual feast!

Magna Carta: A Curators' Eye-View takes place at the British Library on 20 March (11.00-12.15), and entry costs £3.

Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy is on at the British Library until 1 September, and costs £12 (under 18s get free entry, and other concessions are available).

17 March 2015

Irish Manuscripts in the British Library

The British Library holds one of the great collections of Irish-language manuscripts in the world. While it is perhaps not as extensive a collection as those in Dublin or Oxford, and while most of the manuscripts are relatively recent in date, nonetheless the Library’s Irish manuscripts (over 200) contain much that is of considerable scholarly significance. In today’s post, we look at a few of the most important items in the collection.

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Harley MS 1023, f 64v. Below the end of the prologue to John is a drawing of his evangelist symbol, the eagle. A later medieval reader has added John's name above the eagle's head: 'Ioh(ann)es'. Ireland, N. (Armagh?), 1st quarter of the 12th century.

The two Harley Gospel Books are perhaps the jewels of the collection. Harley MS 1802 was completed in Armagh in 1138, and Harley MS 1023 has been attributed to the same place and roughly the same time of origin. Both manuscripts contain the Gospels in Latin, and fine miniatures of Evangelist symbols in ink, along with typical zoomorphic initials. Harley 1802 contains partial commentary in Latin and Irish, and Irish poems and scribal notes. Harley 1023 contains only a few Irish glosses.

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Harley MS 1802, f 61r. Decorated initial and letter 'In'(itium) with animal heads at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark. Ireland, N. (Armagh), 1138.

The Library has a particularly strong collection of Irish medical texts, including many translations of classical or medieval Latin texts. The highlight is undoubtedly Harley MS 546, a collection of medical tracts in Irish and Latin, dated to 1459, and now digitised in full. It includes such joys as the following advice on how ‘to make the face fair’ (Do gelad na haghthi), including some rather unusual uses for bull’s blood and what is translated by O’Grady as bovinum stercus.

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Harley MS 546, f 39v. Treatise on how to make the face fair. Ireland, c 1459.

Other key medical items available online include a fragment in Add MS 39583 of a 16th-century manuscript containing a translation of Hippocrates’ Aphorisms into Middle Irish, and a longer version of the same text from another 16th-century manuscript, Harley MS 4347.

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Egerton MS 88, f 65r. Zoomorphic initial. Ireland, c 1564.

The Irish collections also include many important poetic and legal texts, but we finish with the famous Egerton MS 88, a legal and grammatical miscellany produced by the school of Domhnall Ó Duibhdábhoirenn in around 1564. This manuscript is not only important for its contribution to the study of Irish legal history, but also for the many scribal notes found throughout the manuscript, which give a vivid insight into the everyday lives (and sufferings!) of 16th-century scribes. Many of these complain about the poor working conditions in which Domhnall’s scribes have to work, and we can quote only one here: "Is fuar mairt cin dinér a Domnaill .i. ria nodlaig" (A dinnerless Tuesday is a cold thing, Donall, and before Christmas too). And it would be hard to argue with that! The later history of Egerton MS 88, including the unusual box it was housed in when it arrived at the British Museum, is another story altogether, and one that will have to wait for another day. (Parts of the manuscript are now also to be found in the Copenhagen, Kongelige Bibliotekat MS 261B, and Dublin, Royal Irish Academy, MS 23 Q 6.)

There are great riches to be found by dipping into the printed Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts, which contains transcriptions of many of the annotations and colophons, as well as some of the shorter poems, to be found in the Irish collections. There remains a great deal of work to be done on the collections, particularly on the 18th- and 19th-century manuscripts.

Further resources for the collections:

At present the online catalogue does not include most of the Irish manuscripts. Only a few have been digitised either in full or in part, and these can be viewed on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts or on Digitised Manuscripts. Updated bibliography by shelfmark can be found on the Bibliography of Irish Linguistics and Literature housed at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies.

The most important resource remains the Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts in the British Museum, the third volume of which contains a history of the collection and its formation. Some information on the collectors whose activities contributed to the formation of the collections now in the British Library (including Cotton, O’Curry, and Hardiman) can be found in Nessa Ní Shéaghdha, ‘Collectors of Irish manuscripts: motives and methods’, Celtica 17 (1985), pp. 1–28 (also published separately, Dublin: DIAS 1985, BL shelfmark 2702.b.93).

The composition of the Catalogue of Irish Manuscripts is a tale unto itself, as it is the work of three major figures in Celtic scholarship spanning three generations: Standish Hayes O’Grady (who compiled Volume I), Robin Flower (Volume II and III), and Miles Dillon (who revised Volume III after Flower’s death). The story can be found in the prefaces to the individual volumes of the Catalogue, while for a richer picture, a brief biography of Standish O’Grady can be found in Seán Ua Súilleabháin, ‘Standish Hayes O’Grady’, in Caithréim Thoirdhealbhaigh: Reassessments, ed. by Liam P. Ó Murchú, Irish Texts Society Subsidiary Series 24 (London: Irish Texts Society, 2012), pp. 77-98. (BL Shelfmark YK.2014.a.9606). An obituary of Robin Flower by H. I. Bell was published in Proceedings of the British Academy 32 (1946) pp. 353-79.

- Cillian O'Hogan