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382 posts categorized "Illuminated manuscripts"

25 October 2014

Lindisfarne Gospels in our Treasures Gallery

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The Lindisfarne Gospels, one of the greatest treasures in the British Library’s collections, is now back on display in The Sir John Ritblat Gallery. This Latin Gospel-book is thought to be the work of one remarkably gifted scribe and artist, who created it around 700 on the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumbria. Its importance lies not only in the beauty of its carpet-pages and its miniatures of the four Evangelists, but also in the tenth-century gloss of its text that is the earliest example of the Gospels in the English language.

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Colophon added by Aldred, the translator of the Old English gloss, in the Lindisfarne Gospels, England, c. 700,
Cotton MS Nero D IV, f. 259r 

According to the colophon added by this translator, Aldred (fl. c. 970), who was provost of the community at Chester-le-Street near Durham, the artist-scribe was a monk called Eadfrith, who was Bishop of Lindisfarne from 698 to 721. The inscription records that Eadfrith ‘wrote this book for God and St Cuthbert and also for all the Saints whose relics are on the island’. It also describes the binding made by Billfrith the anchorite, which included a cover adorned with gold, silver and precious gems.

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A Canon table
from Cotton Nero D IV, f. 12v

On display for the next three months are two pages from the canon tables that preface the Lindisfarne Gospels (ff. 12v-13r). These provide readers with a concordance to the Four Gospels, allowing them to locate episodes described by more than one Evangelist. A mistake has been made in Canon 2 (shown), where the name titles at the heads of the three columns have been confused with those of Canon 3 on the facing page. The headings which read ‘Luke’ and ‘John’ have been corrected by a near-contemporary hand to read ‘Mark’ and ‘Luke’. Interlace birds fill the columns and the arch, while a ribbon knotwork design is used for the bases and capitals.

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Detail of masons building the canon table in the Echternach Gospels, from the monastery of St Willibrord, Echternach (now Luxembourg), 11th century,
Harley MS 2821, f. 9r

Visitors to the Gallery will be able to compare the canon tables in the Lindisfarne Gospels with those in the Echternach Gospels, made in the monastery of St Willibrord (in modern day Luxembourg) in the eleventh century. The two tables on display (ff. 8v-9r) show elaborate ornamental pillars upon which masons are still working with hammers and chisels.

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Detail of a remarkably naturalistic bird and fish from the ‘Golden Canon Tables’, Eastern Mediterranean, 6th or 7th century,
Additional MS 5111, f. 11r

In another case nearby there is also the much earlier ‘Golden Canon Tables’ from the Eastern Mediterranean. Written over gold leaf, these tables are set within elaborately adorned architectural frames, including some finely executed birds and fish. These pages were later trimmed to fit a smaller twelfth-century manuscript of the Gospels, causing the loss of some of these details.

The Sir John Ritblat Gallery: Treasures of the British Library is open seven days a week, and is free to visit. If you would like to see the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Echternach Gospels or the Golden Canon Tables in their entirety, please see the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts site. 

- Holly James-Maddocks

23 October 2014

How To Be A Hedgehog

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Longstanding readers of our Medieval Manuscripts Blog may know that we have a penchant for hedgehogs. In 2012, we published a post entitled The Distinguished Pedigree of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, based on the accounts of their behaviour in medieval bestiaries. In 2014, we brought you a hedgehog beauty contest, no less, featuring images of five of our favourites. And most recently we focused on the heraldic hedgehog in the 13th-century Dering Roll.

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Hedgehogs rolling on the ground to collect grapes for their young, as illustrated in the Rochester Bestiary (England, c. 1230): London, British Library, Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 45r. Hedgehogs were said to creep into vineyards when the grapes were ripe, to climb the vines and shake the fruit down to the ground. Then, rather than eating this bounty on the spot, they would turn onto their backs and roll around, impaling the grapes with their sharp quills. They could then trundle off back to their burrows, carrying the grapes on their spines, as a meal for their young. The bestiary writers allegorized this as a warning of the clever stratagems of the devil in stealing man's spiritual fruits.

We've now discovered this fantastic animation, based on the drawings of hedgehogs in one of the British Library's medieval bestiaries (Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 45r). De Herinacio: On the Hedgehog was made by the amazing Obrazki nunu and Discarding Images. We hope that you love it as much as we do! Maybe it will inspire more people to explore and reinvent our wonderful collections.

De Herinacio. On the Hedgehog from obrazki nunu on Vimeo.

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21 October 2014

Illuminated Manuscripts Conference - More Places Available

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We are delighted to announce that – due to exceptional demand for places – the forthcoming AMARC conference has been moved to a larger venue in the Conference Centre at the British Library. 

There are now more places available to attend this exciting conference on fourteenth-century illuminated manuscripts in the British Library collections – so don’t delay in reserving your spot! There are further details below of the speakers’ papers, with some images of the manuscripts they will be discussing. 

However, the post-conference reception remains fully booked. 

The conference is being held in honour of Lucy Freeman Sandler, whose book Illuminators and Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England: The Psalter Hours of Humphrey de Bohun and the Manuscripts of the Bohun Family will be published shortly. 

The Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections (AMARC) is sponsoring the conference, which will be held on Monday, 1st December, 2014. 

The conference will begin at 10:45. Papers will be 30 minutes with 15 minutes for questions after each. The sessions will conclude at 5:15. Lunch will be provided. 

The registration fees are £20; £15 for AMARC members and £10 for students. To register, send a cheque made out to AMARC to James Freeman, Research & Imaging Assistant, Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts, The British Library, 96 Euston Road, London NW1 2DB. Foreign delegates may pay on the day, but should send a notice of their intention to attend to james.freeman@bl.uk

The speakers and their topics are as follows: 

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Detail of a miniature in two registers, showing Jonah being thrown into the sea (above) and Jonah being saved from the whale's mouth (below), from the St Omer Psalter, England (Norfolk), c. 1330-c. 1440, Yates Thompson MS 14, f. 70v
 

- Paul Binski, Lombardy and Norfolk: This paper re-examines the question, first seriously raised by Otto Pächt, of Italian influence in English art before 1350 and what is known about Italian art actually in England at that date. 

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Detail of a marginal hunting scene, with the arms of Ely and Bury St Edmunds, from the Howard Psalter, England (East Anglia), c. 1308-c. 1340, Arundel MS 83 I, f. 14r
 

- Alixe Bovey, Bound to be Together: Revisiting the Howard and De Lisle Psalters (Arundel MS 83 I & II): This paper explores the connections between the celebrated De Lisle Psalter, a fragmentary masterpiece of English illumination, and the somewhat lesser known Howard Psalter. Bound together by William Howard at the turn of the 17th century, both manuscripts were made in England in the 1310s, and in some respects have strikingly similar contents. This paper reflects not only on what the relationship between these books reveals about their medieval creation and early modern reception, but also on Lucy Freeman Sandler’s singular contribution to our understanding of them.

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Detail of an historiated initial with two compartments, showing God the Creator (above) and the Virgin and Child with a Benedictine monk (below), from the chronicle and cartulary of Peterborough Abbey, England (Peterborough), c. 1321-1329, Add MS 39758, f. 20r
 

- Julian Luxford, Walter of Whittlesey, Monk and Artist of Peterborough: Julian will examine British Library Additional MSS 39758 and 47170, which were made in the first half of the fourteenth century by Walter of Whittlesey, a monk of Peterborough Abbey, focusing on what these manuscripts reveal of Whittlesey’s historical interests and his status as a copyist and illuminator of manuscripts. 

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Detail of a three-part miniature showing an angel giving St John the reed (left), worshippers at the altar (centre), and  two men demolishing the temple (right), from a fragmentary Apocalypse, England (?London), 1325-1330, Add MS 38842, f. 2r

- Nigel Morgan, A fragmentary Apocalypse by one of the Milemete artists - Additional 38842: This fragmentary Anglo-Norman prose Apocalypse has been little discussed in the literature on English illustrated fourteenth-century Apocalypses. This paper will consider both its figure style and iconography.

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Detail of a miniature showing Michal saving David from Saul, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London/Westminster or ?East Anglia), c. 1310-c. 1320, Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 52r

- Kathryn Smith, Crafting the Old Testament in the Queen Mary Psalter: This paper considers aspects of the crafting of the Old Testament prefatory cycle in the Queen Mary Psalter (Royal MS 2 B VII), examining analogues of and possible sources for some of the Queen Mary Master's compositions, evidence for the artist's working methods, and the history and image of the Jews as constructed in pictures and text. 

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Detail of an historiated initial showing Jezebel talking to Ahab in bed, with a lewd woman in the margin, from the Bohun Psalter, England (?London), 2nd half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 110v

 - Lucy Freeman Sandler: Embedded Marginalia in Egerton 3277: Lucy will focus on the meanings that emerge when the marginalia of Egerton 3277 are considered as integral components of page design. Specifically, she will discuss the marginalia of Egerton 3277 that are physically ‘embedded’ in the area immediately adjacent to the frames of initial letters, figural subjects linked tangibly with the figural subjects within the initials, which themselves are physical manifestations of textual meaning. The wealth of subtle and multilayered meanings made available to the reader/viewer by the medieval illuminator/designer is suggested by the illustration (above) in the initial of one of the prayers of the Litany showing Jezebel, Ahab’s wife, telling him to arise to take Naboth’s possessions (III Kings 21:15 in the Vulgate) and Jezebel’s marginal counterpart, the marginal woman raising her skirt in a lewd gesture.

 

- James Freeman

18 October 2014

The Death of King John

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King John of England (1199–1216), of Magna Carta fame, was by all accounts a particularly unpleasant ruler. The charges levelled against him, many of them during his own lifetime, included the murder of his nephew, the sexual predation of the wives and daughters of his nobles, and the starving to death of the wife and children of one of his former companions. So unpopular was John that his barons finally rose up in rebellion against his arbitrary rule, and against the severe punishments often inflicted upon them, until they eventually forced the king to grant them the Charter of Liberties, also known as Magna Carta, at Runnymede on 15 June 1215. Few can have lamented King John's eventual demise at Newark Castle — most probably following an attack of dysentery —in October 1216. Writing some forty years later, Matthew Paris (d. 1259), monk and historian of St Albans Abbey, delivered the ultimate condemnation: 'Foul as it is, Hell itself is made fouler by the presence of John'.

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King John in happier times, hunting on horseback according to this illustration in a 14th-century manuscript (London, British Library, Cotton MS Claudius D II, f. 116r).

Today may, or may not, be the anniversary of King John's death. The medieval chroniclers could not reach consensus on the exact date that John died. Matthew Paris and his St Albans' predecessor, Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), plumped for 17 October. Ralph (d. 1226), abbot of the Cistercian monastery at Coggeshall (Essex), stated instead that King John had succumbed to his illness on 18 October. A number of monastic chroniclers, writing at Tewkesbury, Winchester, Worcester and elsewhere, favoured 19 October as the day in question. Of these various witnesses, we should perhaps give greatest credence to the anonymous chroniclers writing at Waverley Abbey (Surrey) and Southwark Priory (Surrey), both of whom asserted that the death of King John took place on 19 October. The manuscripts of these two chronicles (Waverley, British Library Cotton MS Vespasian A XVI; Southwark, British Library Cotton MS Faustina A VIII) were both being written in the year 1216, as evidenced by their numerous changes of scribe at this period. The same is also true, however, of Ralph of Coggeshall's Chronicon Anglicanum (the autograph manuscript of which is British Library Cotton MS Vespasian D X). Roger of Wendover and Matthew Paris, in contrast, were writing many years after the events being described, and so their testimony — albeit possibly derived from an authentic St Albans tradition — is more open to question.

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Is this how King John met his fate? As early as the 13th century, it was alleged that he had been poisoned by a monk of Swineshead Abbey (Lincolnshire), seen here offering him a poisoned chalice (London, British Library, Cotton MS Vitellius A XIII, f. 5v).

Earlier in his reign, King John had determined that he should be buried at the Cistercian abbey he had founded at Beaulieu (Hampshire). In October 1216, Beaulieu lay in that part of England which was held by the rebel barons; and so John asked instead that he be buried at Worcester Cathedral, where his tomb can still be seen. In fact, the tomb was opened in 1797, in order to confirm whether it did contain John's body, and certain of the remains removed, which are also on view in Worcester. Mr Sandford, a local surgeon, inspected the skeleton, and reported that King John stood 5 ft 6½ in. (approximately 1.69 m) tall. Unlike one of his successors, Richard III, John was clearly not buried under a carpark.

Next February, the four surviving manuscripts of King John's Magna Carta will be brought together at the British Library for the first time in 800 years. A ballot is currently being held to give 1,215 lucky winners the chance to see all four manuscripts side-by-side. The ballot closes on 31 October: don't forget to enter for your chance to take part in this moment of history! If you do miss out, you'll still be able to see the British Library's two 1215 Magna Carta manuscripts at our own major exhibition later in 2015: tickets are already on sale. And if you'd like to know more about the history of Magna Carta, take the chance to visit our new Learning webpages, which will be updated with more information next year.

Strangely enough, we doubt that King John would have been particularly amused by the modern-day celebrations planned for Magna Carta in 2015. Less than ten weeks after that document had been granted in June 1215, Magna Carta was annulled by Pope Innocent III, at John's request, declaring it to be 'shameful and demeaning, illegal and unjust, and null and void of all validity for ever'. Just over a year later, a revised version of Magna Carta was issued in the name of John's son, King Henry III (1216–1272), and the rest is history. King John never did get the last laugh.

14 October 2014

Another Greek update: Forty-six more manuscripts online!

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It’s time for a monthly progress report on our Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, generously funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and 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. There are some very exciting items in this batch, most notably the famous Codex Crippsianus(Burney MS 95), the most important manuscript for the text of the Minor Attic Orators; Egerton MS 942, a very fine copy of Demosthenes; a 19th-century poem and prose narrative on the Greek Revolution (Add MS 35072); a number of collections of 16th- and 17th-century complimentary verses in Greek and Latin dedicated to members of the Royal Family; and an exciting array of classical and patristic texts.

Add MS 24371, John Chrysostom, Fragments of Homiliae in Matthaeum (58, 70-75, 78-79, 81-83) (TLG 2062.152). 11th century.

 

Add MS 24371 f 15v
Detail of Add MS 24371, f 15v, beginning of John Chrysostom’s 72nd Homily on the Gospel of Matthew

Add MS 28824, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 11-31 (TLG 2062.112), imperfect and mutilated at beginning and end. 12th century.

Add MS 28826, John Climacus, Scala paradisi (TLG 2907.001), imperfect, and Liber ad Pastorem, imperfect. 12th century.

Add MS 28827, Modern Greek paraphrase of Pseudo–Gregentius, Dialexis (TLG 2833.003), imperfect. 16th century.

Add MS 30518, John Chrysostom, In Genesim homiliae 1-11, 21-33 (TLG 2062.112), imperfect. Written about the year 1121.

Add MS 32643, Patristic miscellany, partly palimpsest, with occasional marginal scholia. Includes works by Anastasius of Sinai, Epiphanius of Salamis, Gregory of Nazianzus, Anastasius I of Antioch, John Chrysostom, Hesychius of Jerusalem, and Christopher of Alexandria, as well as Gospel lections (Gregory-Aland l 1234). 12th-14th century.

Add MS 34654, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes. 11th century.

 

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Detail of Add MS 34654, f 264v, beginning of Gregory of Nazianus, De pauperum amore

Add MS 35072, Prose narrative and poem on the Greek Revolution, by John Laganes of Athens. Wallachia, 1821.

Add MS 36750, John Chrysostom, Ad populum Antiochenum homiliae (TLG 2062.024), imperfect, and Ad illuminandos catecheses 2 (TLG 2062.025), imperfect. 11th century.

Add MS 36753, Florilegium of ancient Greek and patristic authors, entitled Ἀναγνωστικόν. Written in 1198.

 

Add MS 36753 f225v
Add MS 36753, f 225v, colophon of the scribe Χριστοφόρος Κυλαδαῖος

Add MS 40749, Offices for St Demetrius Myroblytes and the Great Earthquake, from the Menaion (October 26th). 15th-18th century.

Burney MS 62, Apollonius of Rhodes, Argonautica, with scholia, vitae, and epigrams. Italy, end of the 15th century, written by the scribe known as the Anonymus Harvardianus.

Burney MS 66, Commentaries on Aristotle by John Philoponus and others. 1st half of the 16th century.

Burney MS 82, Hesiod, Works and Days (TLG 0020.002). Italy, end of the 15th century.

Burney MS 85, Speeches by Isocrates and Lysias, and gnomic literature. Italy, c 1500.

Burney MS 95, Codex Crippsianus, containing speeches by the minor Attic Orators. Constantinople, 1st half of the 14th century.

 

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Burney MS 95 (the Codex Crippisanus) f 34v, beginning of Isaeus, De Pyrrho

Burney MS 276, Fragments of Greek and Latin manuscripts, mostly of classical and patristic authors. 11th-17th century.

Egerton MS 942, Demosthenes, Orationes, preceded by Argumenta of Libanius. Full border in colours and gold, with flowers, green parrots, putti, medallions, cameos, and heraldic arms in the lower border. Headpiece in gold, red, and blue, with braided decoration (f 1r). Large historiated initial in colours and gold. 18 large initials in colours and gold with interlace or foliate decoration. Writing in gold. Initials in red with penwork decoration. Simple headpieces in red. Text and apparatus in red. Florence, made for Alexander Farnese (later Pope Paul III) after 1490.

 

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Egerton MS 942, f 1r, with a portrait of Demosthenes

Egerton MS 2624, Thucydides, Historiae (TLG 0003.001) with numerous scholia and a few glosses added later. Florence, 1st half of the 14th century.

Egerton MS 3154, Geoponica (TLG 4080.001) attributed to Cassianus Bassus Scholasticus, imperfect. 16th century.

Royal MS 1 A IX, The Book of Daniel translated into Greek by Hugh Broughton (1549-1612). England, before 1589.

Royal MS 12 A VI, Complimentary verses to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, on his matriculation at Magdalen College, Oxford, in 1605.

Royal MS 12 A XV, Complimentary verses to Henry, Earl of Arundel, on his return from abroad, by Robert Owen. England, 3rd quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 12 A XXIII, Complimentary verses and address to Elizabeth I on her visit to Oxford by Geoffrey Lewis, of Christ Church. Oxford, 1566?

Royal MS 12 A XXX, Complimentary verses to Elizabeth I on her coming to Windsor by members of Eton College. Windsor, 1563.

Royal MS 12 A XLI, Complimentary verses to Elizabeth I by boys of Westminster School. London, 1597.

 

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Detail of Royal MS 12 A XLI, f 6v, verses to Elizabeth I in Greek

Royal MS 12 A LV, Complimentary verses to Henry Frederick, Prince of Wales, by Israel Brimeld, of New College, Oxford. Oxford, 1603-12.

Royal MS 12 A LX, Complimentary verses to Charles I upon a visit to Winchester, entitled 'Musae Tripudiantes'. Winchester, 1636.

Royal MS 12 A LXVII, Complimentary verses to Elizabeth I on the beginning of her reign by the High Master and boys of St Paul's School. London, c 1573.

Royal MS 16 C II, Charms, prayers, and medical recipes. 4th quarter of the 15th century.

Royal MS 16 C III, Dionysius Periegetes, Orbis descriptio (TLG 0084.001), imperfect. Italy, N., end of the 15th century.

Royal MS 16 C VIII, A translation of the first book of Virgil's Aeneid into Greek hexameters by John Harpsfield, D. D. Oxford, c 1530-1550.

 

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Detail of Royal MS 16 C VIII, f 3r, Opening line of the Aeneid translated into Greek by John Harpsfield

Royal MS 16 C XVII, Harpocration, Lexicon in decem oratores Atticos (1389.001), and Heraclitus, Allegoriae (=Quaestiones Homericae) (TLG 1414.001), imperfect. Possibly written in Italy, end of the 15th century.

Royal MS 16 C XVIII, Scholia on the Greek Anthology of Planudes and Paraphrase of Aristotle's Sophistici Elenchi. In two parts, bound together. Italy, N., end of the 16th century (part 1 contains a colophon dated 1580 in Venice).

Royal MS 16 C XXI, Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea (TLG 0086.010), with copious Latin marginal notes, ff 3r-130v. Preceded by Latin and Greek notes, with some quotations from Greek authors, ff 1r-2v, and followed by Greek notes on f 131v.Possibly France, S?, 1st half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 C XXII, Aristotle, Ethica Nicomachea (TLG 0086.010), Books VIII-IX. Italy, Central, end of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 C XXIV, Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae (TLG 0008.001), with glosses. Possibly written at Venice, 1st half of the16th century.

Royal MS 16 C XXV, Aristotle, De Anima (TLG 0086.002); Plato, extracts; [Plato], Definitiones (TLG 0059.037); Diogenes Laertius, Vitae Philosophorum (TLG 0004.001), Life of Epimenides. Possibly written in Messina, in the south of Italy, c 1500.

Royal MS 16 D X, Athenaeus, Deipnosophistae (epitome) (TLG 0008.003), with glosses, imperfect. Italy, Central, 1st half of the16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XII, John Tzetzes, Eusebius, Oppian and Hermogenes. Formerly three separate volumes, now bound together. 2nd half of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XIII, Sextus Empiricus, with marginal notes by Isaac Casaubon. Italy, N. (Venice?), 2nd half of the 16th century.

 

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Royal MS 16 D XIII, f 17r, Sextus Empiricus, with marginalia by Isaac Casaubon

Royal MS 16 D XIV, Works by Dionysius Thrax, George Choeroboscus, Heliodorus, Ammonius, Herodianus, and Gemistus Pletho. Italy, 2nd quarter of the 16th century.

Royal MS 16 D XVI, Polyaenus, Strategemata (TLG 0616.001), with marginal notes. Venice, mid-16th century.

Sloane MS 1774, Euripides, Hippolytus (TLG 0006.038) with marginal scholia in Greek and Latin. Italy, 16th century.

Sloane MS 4087, Fragments from Kalophonic Sticherarion with compositions mainly by Manuel Chrysaphes and John Kladas (the Lampadarios). Greece, 16th-17th century. A detached binding for this manuscript (Sloane MS 4087/1) is also now online.

Yates Thompson MS 50, Aristophanes, with hypotheses, marginal scholia and interlinear glosses. Decorated headpieces. Large decorated initials. End of the 15th century, possibly Venice.

If you would like to support our Greek Manuscripts Digitisation Project, please click here to learn how you can make a donation and help to make our manuscripts accessible online.

- Cillian O’Hogan

09 October 2014

The Latest, Greatest, Up-To-Datest Giant List of Digitised Manuscripts Hyperlinks

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Behold, one and all, a freshly minted spreadsheet that contains a complete list of all the manuscripts uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts by us diligent digitisation devotees.  A quite simply staggering 1111 manuscripts are now online for your delectation. 

Here is the spreadsheet for you to download: Download BL Medieval and Earlier Digitised Manuscripts Master List 09.10.14 

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Full-page illuminated miniature of St Luke the Evangelist, from a Gospel lectionary, E. Mediterranean (?Cappadocia) or S. Italy, 4th quarter of the 10th century, Arundel MS 547, f. 94v

The numerologically minded among you might feel more than a slight quiver at this auspicious alignment of four instances of the single digit.  Is it confirmation that the BL Medieval blog is the best, the ‘numero uno’ if you will?  Is it repeated four times over as both a joyful affirmation of that fact and in synchronicity with this, the fourth hyperlink blog post of the year?  And what year is it, readers, but 2014 – the last two digits in perfect harmony with our present total, and prophesying the repetition of ‘1’, ‘4’ times over!  Rejoice, O Readers, Rejoice!

Let’s not get carried away, dear friends, for we know that great portents such as these can bring glad tidings but also terrible omens.  The sceptics among you are probably thinking, ‘Well, what about the “20” at the beginning of “2014”?  He’s rather skipped over that!’  To you doubters, I say only this: if you divide the number 14 into 2 equal parts, you get 7 and 7.  Unite those numbers and you get 77.  Why is this significant?  From today, there are but 77 shopping days until Christmas.  I see it now: your mouths agape in horror like the number 0.  Weep and lament, O Readers, weep and lament! 

- James Freeman

06 October 2014

Waiting List: AMARC Conference on English Fourteenth-Century Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library

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We are pleased to report that there has been an enthusiastic response to the announcement of the AMARC conference to celebrate the launch of Lucy Freeman Sandler’s book Illuminators and Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England: The Psalter Hours of Humphrey de Bohun and the Manuscripts of the Bohun Family.

As a result, all places are now filled, but we are starting a waiting list. 

If you would like to be added to the waiting list, please contact Dr James Freeman, at james.freeman@bl.uk

English Fourteenth-Century Illuminated Manuscripts in the British Library

Monday, 1 December 2014

British Library Conference Centre

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British Library, Egerton MS 3277, f. 46v (detail)

Speakers: Paul Binski, Alixe Bovey, Julian Luxford, Nigel Morgan, Kathryn Smith, and Lucy Freeman Sandler

03 October 2014

Apocalypse Then: Further Medieval Visions from Revelation

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Our recent blogpost, Visions of the Apocalypse, featured a selection of images from five of our favourite Apocalypse manuscripts. These works are filled with imaginative depictions of St John’s visions in the Book of Revelation, and it is interesting to compare how different artists illustrated the same text.

One of the most evocative passages in Revelation is at the beginning of chapter 12:

‘And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars … And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And when the dragon saw that he was cast unto the earth, he persecuted the woman which brought forth the man child.’ 

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Detail of the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon beneath her feet, from the Queen Mary Apocalypse, S.E. England or East Anglia, 1st quarter of the 14th century, Royal MS 19 B XV, f. 20v

Medieval illuminators applied their talent and imaginations on this text, and the results are wonderfully varied. In the above image from the Queen Mary Apocalypse, the woman is svelte and elegant, posing nonchalantly in her rather ‘bling’ crown, with the moon at her feet. There is no beast in sight yet, and St John and the winds are watching her in admiration. On the following page (f. 21r), featured in our last blogpost, the horrific seven-headed beast occupies the whole page and the woman is shown in an inset picture, giving up her new-born child to an angel.

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The Woman and the Beast, from the Silos Apocalypse, Spain, 1091-1109,
Add MS 11695, ff. 147v-148r

This next image from the 11th-century Spanish manuscript, the Silos Apocalypse, is part of a brilliantly coloured tapestry, featuring a rather whimsical monster who looks almost friendly: all seven heads appear to be smiling. In the upper part of the image is a woman holding a magnificent floral shield, her head surrounded by daisy-like stars, while she gestures towards the beast.

The lower half of the page shows water flowing out of one of the beast’s mouths towards the  brightly-clothed woman, who now has wings. The water is being swallowed up by the earth, as described in the following verses from Revelation, 12:13-16:

‘And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness …And the serpent cast out of his mouth water as a flood after the woman, that he might cause her to be carried away of the flood. And the earth helped the woman, and the earth opened her mouth, and swallowed up the flood which the dragon cast out of his mouth.’

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Detail of the woman and the beast spewing water into the earth, from the Welles Apocalypse, England, c. 1310,
Royal MS 15 D II, f. 156r

In this image from the Welles Apocalypse, produced in England between 1300 and 1325, the stars are part of the patterned background and the beast has only one head, with water spewing out of it into what appears to be a hollow tree trunk. The woman resembles Mary with a blue robe and halo.

Yates Thompson MS 20, f. 20v
Detail of the woman and the beast spewing water into the earth, from the Yates Thompson Apocalypse, Paris, c. 1370-c. 1390,
Yates Thompson MS 10, f. 20v

A manuscript made late in the 14th century in Paris, Yates Thompson 10, also has a woman raising her hands in terror. The dragon has only one head once again, but is more lifelike than the one in the Welles Apocalypse, and so is the landscape, though the sky is golden.

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Detail of the woman clothed with the sun and the  seven-headed beast spewing water into the earth, from the Abingdon Apocalypse, England (?London), 3rd quarter of the 13th century,
Add MS 42555, f. 36v

The Abingdon Apocalypse, from the 13th century, shows a woman flying away from the griffon-like beast with seven heads, one of which spews water into a tunnel in the earth. Beneath her, wolves and lions are looking on. A golden screen against a blue sky represents her cloak of the sun and she is holding a book-like object.

These are not the only beasts, in fact Apocalypse manuscripts are full of an awesome array of imaginative creatures that must have struck terror into the hearts of anyone brave enough to open these books.

Here is a selection of Apocalyptic beasts, but we must include a disclaimer: this material could give you serious nightmares.

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Detail of the second beast of the Apocalypse on an altar and the third beast watching saints being killed (left),
Add MS 42555, f. 43v

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Detail of John looking at the three beasts of the Apocalypse with frogs coming out of their mouths,
Add MS 42555, f. 60v

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Detail of men battling with a dragon,
Royal MS 19 B XV, f. 22v

A few brave knights are prepared to take on this ferocious creature, while the woman in clothed with the sun flies away.

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Detail of John standing before the false prophet, the dragon, and the beast, with frogs emerging from their mouths representing their unclean spirits,
Royal MS 15 D II, f. 174v

These two beasts and the false prophet have frogs in their mouths, according to the text, but they look more like fish, or maybe large tadpoles.

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The adoration of the Beast with an inscription: 'ubi reges terre bestia[m] et draconem adorant' (Revelation 13:1-10),
Add MS 11695, ff. 151v-152r

And finally, two of the most terrifying beasts of all - and they are being worshipped!

- Chantry Westwell