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433 posts categorized "Illuminated manuscripts"

31 July 2015

Happy Uncommon Musical Instrument Appreciation Day!

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As we are sure you are all aware, today is Uncommon Musical Instrument Appreciation Day, the day on which we are urged to take time to think about the rare and unusual instruments that have gone obsolete, or are otherwise beyond our ken.  We would like to offer a number of examples in the spirit of this momentous occasion - the familiar, the forgotten and the simply odd.  Please be sure to send any other gems you might encounter to us on Twitter @BLMedieval.  Without any further ado:

Add MS 47683 f. 1v G70059-77
Folio with musical instruments, from a leaf from a giant Bible, Italy, 11th-12th century, Add MS 47683, f. 1v

Harley MS 4951, f. 299v E123871
Detail of a man with bells among musical neumes, from the Gradual of Saint-Etienne of Toulouse, France (Toulouse), last quarter of the 11th-first quarter of the 12th century, Harley MS 4951, f. 299v

Harley MS 2804 f. 3vE102183c
Detail of two musicians playing the rebec and cithar, from the Worms
Bible, Germany (Frankenthal), 2nd-3rd quarter of the 12th century, Harley MS 2804, f. 3v

Add MS 62925 f. 54r copy copy
Detail of a miniature of a rabbit playing a bell-like instrument, from the Rutland Psalter, England (London?), c. 1260, Add MS 62925, f. 54r

Stowe_ms_17_f061v copy
Detail of two monkeys playing trumpets in an unusual manner, from the Maastricht Hours, Liège, 1st quarter of the 14th century, Stowe MS 17, f. 61v

Add_ms_49622_f106v copy
Detail of a marginal painting of a rabbit and a dog playing a hurdy-gurdy (?), from the Gorleston Psalter, England (Suffolk?), 1310-1324, Add MS 49622, f. 106v

Royal MS 14 E III f. 89r c13827-54c
Detail of a marginal painting of a man playing a rabbit-trumpet (despite distractions), from La Queste del Saint Graal, France, c. 1315 - c. 1325, Royal MS 14 E III, f. 89r

 Harley MS 6563 f. 40r E123884
Detail of a cat playing a rebec, from a fragmentary Book of Hours, England (London), c. 1320 - c. 1330, Harley MS 6563, f. 40r

Add_ms_18851_f419v copy
Detail of a marginal painting of a monkey playing bagpipes, from the Breviary of Queen Isabella of Castile, Bruges, c. 1497, Add MS 18851, f. 419v

Add MS 18852, f. 98r copy copy
Detail of a marginal painting of bagpipes (?), from the Hours of Joanna the Mad, Bruges, 1486-1506, Add MS 18852, f. 98r

Arundel_ms_263_f136r and f. 137v
Leonardo da Vinci's drawings, including a mechanical organ and timpani/drums, from the Codex Arundel, Italy (Florence, Milan, and Rome), 1478-1518, Arundel MS 263, f. 136r and 137v

- Sarah J Biggs

16 July 2015

Another Apocalypse Manuscript Digitised

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The British Library has a great collection of Apocalypse manuscripts and we have featured them in a number of recent blogposts. At the end of this post, we provide a list of the best-known Apocalypse manuscripts that have been digitised in recent years. The most recent Apocalypse to be digitised is the rather lesser-known but finely-executed Additional MS 35166, an Apocalypse in Latin with commentary by Berengaudus and a life of St John the Divine, whose visions are recorded in the Book of Revelation.

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The earthquake at the opening of the Sixth Seal. Additional MS 35166, f. 9v (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

The top half of every recto and verso of the 38 folios (there are a number of leaves missing, from Revelation 10:7 to 16:8) has a miniature, and underneath is a brief passage from the Apocalypse written in black ink, followed by Berengaudus’ commentary in red ink.

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The Second Seal: the Red Horse. Additional MS 35166, f. 7v (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

The exquisite tinted drawings faithfully portray John's vivid descriptions of his visions. The illuminator has incorporated John into the majority of scenes, which lends a sense of immediacy to the images: the reader witnesses the horror and awe of the Apocalypse alongside him.

Preceding and following the Apocalypse are scenes from the Life of St John. His death at the hands of the Emperor Domitian in a cauldron of boiling oil is depicted here:

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John in a cauldron of oil, Additional MS 35166, f. 1v (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

The stories from the life of John are from the New Testament Apocrypha and include the tale of a young man who is presented to a bishop by John and becomes his cup-bearer. The young man, riding a white horse, joins a band of robbers and they kill and steal. John is told this by the bishop and rides out to bring the young man back to the bishop.

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The young man and robbers stealing and murdering, Additional MS 35166, f. 35r (detail), England, S.E. (?London), 2nd half of the 13th century

This Apocalypse manuscript may have belonged to a religious guild known as the Kalendars, as it is inscribed, ‘Liber Domus Kalendarum’ on the first folio.  The Kalendars were religious guilds of the Middle Ages, composed of clergy and laity, known to have existed in Bristol, Exeter and Winchester in the 12th century.  They met on or around Kalends (the first day of the month), hence the name ‘Kalendars’.

For comparison, here are some images of the opening of the Sixth Seal and the earthquake (Rev. 6:11-15) in several other Apocalypse manuscripts held by the British Library, to give you a sense of the differing styles of illumination:

The Queen Mary Apocalypse

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John watching the earthquake, with ruins and fallen stars, and the dead in holes, Royal MS 19 B XV, f 11v (detail), England S. E. (London), or East Anglia, 1st quarter of the 14th century

The Yates Thompson Apocalypse

Yates_thompson_ms_10_f011r
The earthquake at the opening of the Sixth Seal: six heads in holes in the ground with a river in the foreground and the sun and moon, Yates Thompson MS 10, f. 11r (detail), France (Paris), 1370-1390

The Silos Apocalypse

Add_ms_11695_f108r
The opening of the Sixth Seal: Christ enthroned above the dark sun and red moon; below, falling stars and the earthquake, Additional MS 11695, f. 108r, Spain, 1091-1109

The Welles Apocalypse

Royal_ms_15_d_ii_f131r
The opening of the Sixth Seal; the earthquake. At the top, a darkened sun and moon and stars falling from the sky. In the centre, a king, a master and other men hiding in caves. To the right, a building collapsing. To the left, St John is witnessing the scene. Royal MS 15 D II, f 131r (detail), England, c 1310

The Abingdon Apocalypse

Add_ms_42555_f016v
The Sixth Seal: St John looking up at a cloud containing the sun and moon; on the right the ruins of a town and men and women in holes in the ground, with fragments of objects falling from the sky. Add MS 42555, f 16v (detail), England, 3rd quarter of the 13th century


- Chantry Westwell

 

14 July 2015

Caption Competition 2

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The second of our caption competitions is from a manuscript newly published in the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts.   There are many possibilities for this image – use your imagination! Leave your suggested caption in the comments, or tweet us @BLMedieval. Results will be published here and on Twitter!

K151519
??? England, S. (Westminster or London); 4th quarter of the 13th century, Additional 18719, f. 92.

 

 

11 July 2015

Influential Illumination: British Library Loans to Lens

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Three of the British Library’s medieval manuscripts are currently on loan to an exhibition at Louvre-Lens. D’Or et d’ivoire: Paris, Pise, Florence, Sienne, 1250–1320 explores the artistic relations between Paris and Tuscany. Over 125 exhibits illustrate the creative exchanges taking place in architecture, sculpture, ivory carving, metalwork, and painting in the 13th and early 14th centuries. The British Library manuscripts offer three superb examples of the opulence and innovation of Parisian manuscript illumination in this period.  

Harley_ms_2891_f145v
Full-page miniature of the Crucifixion, Missal, France (Paris), 1317–1318, Harley MS 2891, f. 145v

 

Two of the manuscripts are associated with the Sainte-Chapelle, the incredible royal chapel built by Louis IX of France (r. 1226–1270) to store his relics. The first, Harley MS 2891, is a missal with several historiated initials, and two glorious full-page miniatures of the Crucifixion and Christ in Majesty on diaper grounds.

Harley_ms_2891_f146r
Full-page miniature of Christ in Majesty, Harley MS 2891, f. 146r

 

Add MS 17341, the second Sainte-Chapelle manuscript, is a lectionary probably made for Philip IV (r. 1285–1314).  It is almost an exact copy of a manuscript made twenty years earlier (now Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, MS lat. 17326). However, its artist displays a greater interest in naturalism and spatial illusion, whilst replicating the content and position of the illustrations in its exemplar. Over 260 exquisite historiated initials depict biblical scenes, the majority of which are ‘ladder initials’, encompassing multiple compartments.

Add_ms_17341_f145v
Historiated initials at the beginning of Matthew 12: 46-50 and Matthew 20: 20-28, Quatrième Évangéliaire de la Sainte-Chapelle, France (Paris), last quarter of the 13th century, Add MS 17341, f. 145v

 

Add_ms_17341_f161r
‘Ladder initial’ at the beginning of Luke 21: 9-16, Add MS 17341, f. 161r

 

The extraordinary illuminations in Add MS 17341 have been tentatively associated with the most celebrated of Parisian artists, Maître Honoré (fl. 1288–1318). The name of this influential illuminator is known from a note in a manuscript he illuminated of the Decretum Gratiani (Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, MS 558; miniatures from the manuscript can be found here). Maître Honoré’s name also features in a number of Parisian tax registers. The large tax bills he paid reveal the significant sums this high-end illuminator demanded for his services. His style marks a key development in Parisian illumination, in particular his shading and use of colour. It has been suggested that the delicate and rounded features of his figures reflect the influence of Italian (Sienese?) painting. The innovations of Maître Honoré and his workshop were at the centre of a renaissance in Parisian illumination, and one which took inspiration from artistic styles beyond the confines of northern France.

Add_ms_54180_f069v
The Garden of the virtues with seven virgins watering the trees and a hunting scene below, from La Somme le Roi, France (Paris), c. 1295, Add MS 54180, f. 69v

 

Maître Honoré has also been linked to the third manuscript on loan to Louvre-Lens, Add MS 54180. It is another manuscript likely to have been made for the French king, Philip IV (r. 1285–1314). Add MS 54180 contains a copy of Brother Laurent’s La Somme le Roi, a moral compendium originally compiled in 1279 for Philip’s father, Philip III of France (r. 1270–1285). Two illuminated folios removed from Add MS 54180 are now Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, MS 192 and MS 368.

Add_ms_54180_f091v
Miniature in four compartments depicting the Four Cardinal Virtues: Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude and Justice, Add MS 54180, f. 91v

 

For the exhibition’s curator Xavier Decrot, the three British Library manuscripts are ‘seminal in showing the importance of Paris as a centre for luxury production, and especially, the exceptional quality of the illuminators at this time, not only evident in liturgical manuscripts like the Missal and the Fourth Lectionary of the Sainte-Chapelle, but also in other types of book, such as the extraordinary version by Maître Honoré of Brother Laurent’s La Somme le Roi, probably the most beautiful manuscript produced in the period.’

You can enjoy our manuscripts and the other amazing items on display at Louvre-Lens until 28 September 2015. Allez-y nombreux!

- Hannah Morcos

07 July 2015

New uploads to the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

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We continue to add manuscripts from the Additional collection with selected images to the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. Here is a selection of favourites from the upload in June.

Perhaps the most spectacular of these works is Additional MS 16997, a Book of Hours produced in Paris, with 17 jewel-like miniatures, mostly attributed to the Boucicault Master, whose advanced depiction of light and perspective can be seen in the following miniature. The border, too, is a work of art, with naturalistic birds among the lustrous foliage. This treasure was owned by none other than Étienne Chevalier, Treasurer of France in the mid-15th century.

Add_ms_16997_f145r
The celebration of Mass, with two owls, two other birds and a butterfly in the border, France, Central (Paris), 1st quarter of the 15th century, Additional MS 16997, f. 145r.

 

A number of these illustrated historical works have been catalogued. The Histoire Universelle was featured in a blogpost in February and two of the manuscripts are currently on display in our Treasures gallery. The Histoire begins with the biblical story of Creation and includes Greek and Roman legends. The following images have recently been published from two French manuscripts, one of the 13th century and one of the late 14th century:

Add_ms_19669_f084r
A four-part miniature of (1) the death of Hector, (2) Achilles and Polyxena on Hector's grave, (3) Achilles with Hecuba in the temple, and (4) the death of Achilles. , France, N., 2nd half of the 13th century, Additional MS 19669, f. 84r.

 

Add_ms_25884_f002r
The Creation of the animals and the Creation of Eve, France, Central (Paris), last quarter of the 14th century, Additional MS 25884, f. 2r.


Two manuscripts associated with women appear for the first time in the catalogue. The first contains a version of the Miroir des Dames, a treatise on queenship translated from Latin for Jeanne de Navarre (b. c. 1271, d. 1305) and other instructional works. It was made for Jean, Duke of Berry and of Auvergne (b. 1340, d. 1416), son of the king of France and collector of some of the greatest manuscripts and works of art of the era.

Add_ms_29986_f152v
Mary instructing three women at the beginning of St Anselm's first meditation, France, 1407 to 1410, Additional MS 29986, f. 152v.


The other is the unique copy of the Dialogue de la duchesse de Bourgogne a Jesus Christ, a devotional work written especially for Margaret of York, sister of Edward IV, who married the Duke of Burgundy in 1468.  The image shows Christ visiting her in her chamber.  As always, Margaret is attired in the latest Burgundian fashion, and even Christ wears a rather luxurious red garment. 

Add_ms_7970_f001v
Margaret of York kneeling before the Resurrected Christ, Netherlands, S. (Brussels), between 1468 and 1477 Additional MS 7970, f. 1v.

Newly included in the catalogue are nine liturgical manuscripts in the Mozarabic tradition, all from the monastery of Santo Domingo de Silos, near Burgos, produced in the 10th and 11th centuries.  Some contain musical notation and the style of illumination is unique.   The most highly decorated is an antiphonal with 23 large decorated initials. Petrus, one of the artists who worked on the Silos Apocalypse was responsible for some of the decoration.

Add_ms_30850_f105v
Monogram at the beginning of the Office of Easter with zoomorphic and interlace decoration; visigothic neumes, Spain, N. (Burgos, Silos), 4th quarter of the 11th century of 1st quarter of the 12th century, Additional 30850, f. 105v.

Another early manuscript, this time from Italy, is known as the ‘Montecassino Exultet Roll’ as it includes the Exultet, a hymn sung by a deacon during the consecration of the Paschal candle, during the Easter Vigil. The roll was made of 12 parchment membranes sewn together in c. 1075 and the text is in Beneventan minuscule. It includes this image of bee-keeping.

Add_ms_30337_f10r
Bees gathering nectar and a bee-keeper collecting wax for the Paschal candle, Italy, S. (Montecassino), c. 1075, Additional MS 30337, membrane 10.

 

- Chantry Westwell

01 July 2015

A Calendar Page for July 2015

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To find out more about the London Rothschild Hours, take a look at our post A Calendar Page for January 2015

Add_ms_35313_f004v
Calendar page for July, with decorative border comprising a Zodiac sign, roundels, and bas-de-page scene, from the London Rothschild Hours, Southern Netherlands (?Ghent), c. 1500,
Add MS 35313, f. 4v 

The agrarian labours continue in this month’s bas-de-page scene. Amidst a gently rolling landscape, two men are mowing grass with scythes. To the left, a woman is using a pitchfork to turn the grass to dry into hay in the sunshine. Another woman approaches from the background, bearing a basket on her head and a satchel in her hand – perhaps containing refreshments for the workers. Note how the artist has included little details to convey a sense of the midsummer heat: the broad-brimmed hats the labourers are wearing to protect their faces from the sun, and the rolled-up sleeves of the man on the right. The roundels for July show the key religious dates for the month: the Visitation of the Virgin Mary, the Translation of the Relics of St Thomas the Apostle, and the feast days of St Benedict, St Mary Magdalene, and Sts James and Christopher. A lion – the Zodiac sign for Leo – is included as a header in the calendar. 

Add_ms_35313_f004v_labour
Detail of a bas-de-page scene of peasants making hay,
Add MS 35313, f. 4v 

Add_ms_35313_f004v_marymagdalene
Detail of a roundel showing St Mary Magdalene,
Add MS 35313, f. 4v 

- James Freeman

27 June 2015

Art in the margins: the Theodore Psalter

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The psalter, a copy of the Psalms designed for personal or liturgical uses, was an important text in Byzantinum, particularly in monastic life. Among the many copies of this text surviving down to the present day are marginal psalters, which contain illuminations in the margins of the folios. Several important marginal psalters survive, such as the Barberini, Paris, and Bristol Psalters, all of which can be appreciated for their impressive decoration.

Add_ms_19352_f001v
Add MS 19532, f 1v. Chrysography (writing in gold).

Add MS 19352, the Theodore Psalter, is perhaps the most richly decorated psalter to survive, with 440 marginal illustrations, and we have just updated the catalogue to include a description of every miniature in the manuscript. Nearly every folio contains illustration, and the title and first initial of every verse are in gold.

Add_ms_19352_f096r
Add MS 19352, f 96r. An elaborate orchard scene takes up nearly a third of the page.

These illustrations range widely in their content, as each tries to imagine the most important elements of the Psalm. Specific lines referred to are often linked to the images by means of red or blue lines. The manuscript includes some graphic depictions of God’s wrath:

Add_ms_19352_f011v detail
Add MS 19532, f 11v. Angel pulling out the boastful tongue (Ps 11(12):4).
Add_ms_19352_f021v
Add MS 19352, f 21v. Burning of Sodom and the five cities.

It also contains scenes of some of the Bible’s most exciting stories:

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Add MS 19532, f 182r. David and Goliath.
Add_ms_19352_f141v
Add MS 19352, f 141v. Plagues visited upon Egypt.
Add_ms_19352_f201r
Add MS 19352, f 201r. Jonah cast into the sea.

Particularly prominent is King David, reputedly the author of a number of the Psalms, who can be seen praying in various ways. Many of these images underscore the prophetic qualities of the Psalms, and include New Testament figures, particularly Jesus and Mary, along with a passage in which they are prophesied.

Add_ms_19352_f084r
Add MS 19352, f 84r. Daniel prophesies on the mount (pink) with the Mother of God at the top and David at the foot.

Other images are used in a liturgical context, and what they depict is not necessarily connected with the Psalm, but connected to a feast or Saint to which that Psalm is significant:

Add_ms_19352_f081v
Add MS 19352, f 81v. The Martyrdom of the Forty Martyrs. Psalm 65 (66) is read on their feast day.

In addition to the Psalms, the Theodore Psalter contains the Odes, and a twelve-syllable poem on David’s early life. Also among the additional material are a colophon and a prayer for the Psalter's recipient. These make it clear that the manuscript was copied in 1066 by Theodoros of Caesarea, presbyter of the Studios Monastery in Constantinople, for the Abbot Michael.

Add_ms_19352_f208r
Add MS 19352, f 208r. Colophon, written in gold.

On Digitised Manuscripts you can see full coverage of this richly decorated manuscript and many others like it.

-          Andrew St. Thomas

20 June 2015

Ex(odus)-Men: Adventures in a Medieval Bible Picture Book

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In a couple of previous blog posts (Superheroes, True Romance, Blood and Gore and Comic Mania), we demonstrated how medieval picture books easily compete with the action, intrigue and visual appeal of the modern comic book (who could forget the dancing camels of The Old English Hexateuch?!). One of the newest additions to our website of Digitised Manuscripts, Additional MS 15277, offers yet another reason to put down your latest graphic novel.

Add_ms_15277_f015r
Moses (with horns) returns from Mount Sinai for the second time, from the 'Paduan Bible Picture Book', Northern Italy (Padua?), c. 1400, Add MS 15277, f. 15r

This Italian manuscript is loaded with tension, violence and transgressive behaviour, bringing to life the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy and Joshua. The manuscript is imperfect at both the beginning and the end (the Books of Genesis and Ruth are now at Rovigo (Biblioteca dell'Accademia dei Concordi, MS 212, a facsimile of which can be ordered in our Reading Room as MS Facsimile 605)). Nonetheless, what remains is an exciting and rich example of a late medieval Bible picture book. From the plagues of Egypt to the conquest of the Promised Land, the Books of the Old Testament are vibrantly animated.

Add_ms_15277_f007r
Detail of a miniature of the plague of hail (Exodus 9:22-25), Add MS 15277, f. 7r
 
Add_ms_15277_f015v
Bezalel and Aholiab are selected to build the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-11), Add MS 15277 f. 15v
 
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Detail of a miniature of a fight between an Israelite and a man with an Israelite mother and an Egyptian father who blasphemes (Leviticus 24:10), Add MS 15277, f. 23r
 
Add_ms_15277_f023v
Detail of a miniature of the blasphemer being stoned (Leviticus 24:23), Add MS 15277, f. 23v
 
Add_ms_15277_f051v
God tells Moses to punish those who have been transgressing with Moabite women and worshipping their gods; Phinehas thrusts a spear through an Israelite man and Midianite woman in the midst of copulation (Numbers 25:1-9), Add MS 15277, f. 51v
 
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War against the Midianites (Numbers 31:1-12), Add MS 15277, f. 53r
 
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Detail of two miniatures of Joshua killing the King of Makkedah (Joshua 10:28), Add MS 15277, f. 72r

Visit our website of Digitised Manuscripts to explore more incredible images from the Paduan Bible Picture Book.

- Hannah Morcos