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406 posts categorized "Illuminated manuscripts"

31 December 2014

The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2014

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Before 2014 is out, we’d like to say a big thank-you to all our readers for your support of the BL Medieval blog and your interest in the work that we do.

Back in April, we were honoured to receive a National UK Blog Award (Arts & Culture category), beating off stiff competition from the Tate, Horror Cult Films and other organisations. The award was made after an online ballot in which 16,000 votes were cast – so we literally couldn’t have done it without you!

In the course of the year, we’ve also passed another major milestone: the blog has now received over 1.5 million hits! Can we break the 2 million barrier in 2015? 

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Detail of a knight fighting a snail, from the Gorleston Psalter, England (Suffolk), 1310-1324, Add MS 49622, f. 193v
 

So which posts have helped us to achieve this fantastic result? Two in particular, written in previous years, remain at the top of the tree: our ‘discovery’ of the Unicorn Cookbook, and our study of the those bitter enemies who slug it out (no pun intended) in the margins, Knight vs Snail. For 2014, however, here is the top ten, in reverse order: 

10. The Burden of Writing: Scribes in Medieval Manuscripts 

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Detail of a miniature of the constellation ‘Draco’, from an astrological compilation with political prophecies, England (London?), 1490,
Arundel MS 66, f. 33v 

Here are some depictions of scribes hard at work from the pages of British Library manuscripts: pen in hand, eyes fixed in concentration over the page, labouring over desks and lecterns. 

9. A Calendar Page for April 2015 

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Calendar page for April, with a roundel miniature of an aristocratic couple courting, followed by a small child, from the Huth Hours, Netherlands (Bruges or Ghent?), c. 1480,
Add MS 38126, f. 4v 

Manuscript miniatures offer wonderful insights into the medieval world...but there’s just something a bit odd about these ones. 

8. A Medieval Comic Strip 

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Detail of a miniature of the building of the Tower of Babel, from the Egerton Genesis Picture Book, England (Norwich or Durham?), 3rd quarter of the 14th century,
Egerton MS 1894, f. 5v 

Inspired by the British Library’s exhibition Comics Unmasked, this post takes a closer look at the Egerton Genesis Picture Book, which contains 149 illustrations of the Book of Genesis, from Creation to the story of Joseph, with captions from the Historia scholastica. 

7. How to be a Hedgehog 

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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 

We love it when people are inspired by British Library manuscripts to make things: here’s an animation about a hedgehog’s life, according to one of our bestiaries (Royal MS 12 F XIII). 

6. Sex and Death in the Roman de la Rose 

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Detail of a miniature of the Lover being beaten by Honte (‘Shame’), Peur (‘Fear’) and Dangier (‘Danger’), from the Roman de la Rose, Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1490-c. 1500,
Harley MS 4425, f. 131v 

Beatings, murder, mutilation, suicide – oh, and handholding, dancing, music and polite courtship – in the miniatures of a beautiful 15th-century copy of Guillaume de Lorris’s staple of medieval romance literature, the Roman de la Rose. 

5. Weird and Wonderful Creatures of the Bestiary 

Harley MS 4751, f. 11r
Detail of a miniature of hunters pursuing a bonnacon with a very long lance and strategic shield, from a bestiary, with extracts from Giraldus Cambrensis on Irish birds, England (Salisbury), 2nd quarter of the 13th century,
Harley MS 4751, f. 11r 

We’ve found our animal posts are always popular, but we think you’d struggle to find the bonnacon cute – and don’t make eye contact with the basilisk! 

4. Anatomy of a Dragon 

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Detail of a miniature of a dragon attacking and suffocating an elephant, from a bestiary with theological texts, England, c. 1200 – c. 1210,
Royal MS 12 C XIX, f. 62r 

We all know about St George – but what about his reptilian foe? Here’s a look at dragons across a range of medieval manuscripts, from bestiaries (apparently they prey on elephants) to astrological texts and apocalypses. 

3. The Three Living and the Three Dead 

Harley MS 2917, f. 119r
Detail of a miniature of the Three Living (a pope, an emperor, and a king) and the Three Dead (wearing matching crowns), at the beginning of thee Office of the Dead, from a Book of Hours, France (Paris), c. 1480-c. 1490,
Harley MS 2917, f. 119r 

Need a sober reminder of man’s mortality and the inevitability of his demise? Look no further! 

2. An Illustrated Guide to Medieval Love 

Egerton MS 881, f. 141v
Detail of a miniature of Mars and Venus being discovered in bed by Vulcan, from the ‘Roman de la Rose’, France (Paris?), c. 1380,
Egerton MS 881, f. 141v 

There still time to prepare for Valentine’s Day next year, singletons, so don’t despair: read our handy guide to the do’s and don’ts of courtship. 

1. Bugs in Books 

Royal MS 20 A IV, f. 3v
Detail of a grasshopper, from a copy of Martin de Brion's Description of the Holy Land, France (?Paris), c. 1540, Royal MS 20 A IV
, f. 3v 

Not actual bugs – goodness, no! – but the butterflies, caterpillars, beetles, spiders and other creepy crawlies that are found to populate the decorative borders of British Library manuscripts. 

- James Freeman

27 December 2014

Saved for the Nation: New Acquisitions in 2014

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During 2014, the British Library has made several new acquisitions. Thanks to such schemes as Acceptance in Lieu, as well as generous funding provided by the Arts Council, the Friends of the British Library and a range of private benefactors, we have been able to save these books for the nation. Each has been conserved and fully digitised, the images being published on Digitised Manuscripts, and so are now available for all to enjoy and study. Just in case you missed them the first time round, let’s take a closer look at each of them:

Catholicon Anglicum 

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Opening page, beginning with the exclamation ‘Aaa’, from the Catholicon Anglicum, England (Yorkshire), 1483,
Add MS 89074, f. 2r 

This is the only complete copy of one of the earliest English-Latin dictionaries ever made, and the first such dictionary in which all the words were placed in alphabetical order. From the dialect of some of the words, it appears to have been written in Yorkshire. Last seen in the late nineteenth century when the text was edited, and thought lost to scholarship forever, it had lain hidden in a private collection in Lincolnshire. The Catholicon Anglicum is of outstanding importance for our study both of the English language and English lexicography (which goes back much further than Dr Johnson!). It has been exhibited in the Treasures Gallery since June, as part of a small display about ‘Languages in Medieval Britain’

Mystère de la Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur Iesu Crist 

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Detail of a miniature of the murder of Emperor Galba by Otho and his rebels, from the Mystère de la Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur Iesu Crist, southern Netherlands (Bruges), c. 1465,
Add MS 89066/2, f. 79r 

Probably the finest illuminated drama manuscript to survive from the medieval period, this manuscript in two volumes (Add MS 89066/1 and Add MS 89066/2) was acquired from the collection of the Dukes of Devonshire at Chatsworth. It is the most complete copy of the mystery play, Le Mystère de la Vengeance de Nostre Seigneur Iesu Crist, which was written by a Benedictine monk, Eustache Marcadé, in the early fifteenth century. This manuscript ticks all the boxes: it is beautifully decorated and handsomely written; there are surviving records of exactly how much it cost and who made it; and there is an almost unbroken chain of provenance evidence, from its original owner Philip the Good of Burgundy to the present day. It too is on display in the Treasures Gallery; don’t miss your chance to see it! 

John Ponet’s copy of a treatise against clerical marriage 

Add_ms_89067_f001r
Frontispiece to John Ponet’s copy of Thomas Martin’s ‘Traictise’, containing Ponet’s annotations and an old library stamp from the Law Society’s Mendham Collection, printed in London, 1554,
Add MS 89067, f. 1r 

This book is a fascinating witness to one of the major doctrinal disputes of the Reformation, and to the personal rivalry between the Catholics Stephen Gardiner and his acolyte Thomas Martin on one hand, and the Protestant John Ponet on the other. Upon Mary I’s accession, Ponet went into exile, settling in Strasbourg. He acquired this book while on the continent, had it interleaved with blank sheets, and then began a point-by-point (and often ad hominem) refutation of Gardner/Martin’s argument. Many of these densely written notes were later printed – but crucially not all of them – affording us an insight into how contemporaries engaged with one another’s arguments and composed their responses during a febrile period in English religious history. 

And finally, our most recent acquisition, which arrived earlier this month: 

Rental of the lands of Worcester Cathedral Priory

The British Library possesses the largest collection of medieval cartularies in Britain. The newest addition to our holdings is a rental that was made for Worcester Cathedral Priory. Dating to 1240 (with some later additions), it contains records of the possessions of this major monastic foundation and the revenues to which it was entitled. It formed the exemplar for the ‘Registrum Prioratus’, dating to the early 14th century, which remains at Worcester Cathedral, as Muniments, A.2. More details of this exciting new acquisition will be coming in the New Year...

 

- James Freeman

25 December 2014

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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Everyone at the British Library's Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts section would like to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! 

Or perhaps that should be ‘¡Feliz Navidad y próspero Año Nuevo!’, since our Guess the Manuscript Christmas Special was taken from a Spanish manuscript: Add MS 28962, the Prayerbook of Alphonso V of Aragon. 

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Miniature of the Nativity, from the Prayerbook of Alphonso V of Aragon, Spain (Valencia), 1436-1443,
Add MS 28962, f. 337v 

This miniature marks the beginning of the Second Joy of the Virgin Mary. In this Book of Hours, there are seven such joys – beginning with the Annunciation (f. 336v), and continuing after the Nativity with the Adoration of the Magi (f. 338v), the Resurrection (f. 339v), Christ’s Ascension (f. 340v), and the Pentecost (f. 341v), and ending with the Dormition and Mary’s Coronation in Heaven (f. 342v). 

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Miniature of the Adoration of the Magi,
Add MS 28962, f. 338v 

The Joys of the Virgin Mary – often paralleled, as here, by a series of Sorrows of the Virgin Mary – was the most popular of the various ‘secondary’ texts that could comprise part of a Book of Hours. The number of Joys is known to have varied between five and fifteen, with such events as the Visitation of Our Lady, the Conception of Christ, the Presentation and Purification in the Temple, Christ among the Doctors and others included in the series. Popularized in thirteenth century Italy and later adopted especially by the Franciscans, the Joys of the Virgin Mary were depicted very widely in manuscripts and other forms of medieval art, such as wall and panel paintings. Mary’s Five Joys are also cited in Gawain and the Green Knight (Cotton MS Nero A X, art. 3) as the source from which the eponymous hero derives his fortitude (‘forsnes’). They were even used by Robert Fabyan (d. 1513) to divide his chronicle into seven parts (the manuscript copy of which survives in two volumes: the first is Holkham Hall, MS 671, the second Cotton MS Nero C XI). 

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Miniature of Alphonso V of Aragon at prayer, with his arms contained within a coloured initial below,
Add MS 28962, f. 312r 

The present Book of Hours was originally commissioned in 1436 by Juan de Casanova (b. 1387, d. 1436), a Dominican monk, for Alphonso V of Aragon, whom he served as confessor. It was taken on by the workshop of Domingo Crespí and his son in Valencia, but repeated delays meant that the book was not finished until 1443. Its intended destination is obvious, however: the manuscript contains a miniature of Alphonso V on horseback and several of him at prayer, in addition to his coat of arms in numerous places.

 - James Freeman

17 December 2014

Tudor Scribe and Spy at No. 2 in the Official Classical Charts

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A new recording of a magnificent choirbook produced for King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon, one of the great treasures in the British Library’s music collections, reached number 2 in the Classical Charts in the first week of its release in October 2014.

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Detail of a historiated initial with the Tudor rose and pomegranate, from the Choirbook of Petrus Alamire, Southern Netherlands, c. 1516,
Royal MS 8 G VII, f. 3r

Containing mostly motets for four voices by Josquin des Prez, Pierre de la Rue and other leading Continental composers, this volume is representative of the finest French and Franco-Flemish repertory of the time. To celebrate the first complete recording of all 34 pieces, full coverage of this beautifully illuminated volume is now freely available on Digitised Manuscripts.

Royal_ms_8_g_vii_f002v
Cantus and tenor parts of the motet ‘Celeste beneficium’ by Jean Mouton,
Royal MS 8 G VII, f. 2v

The rich sounds of early sixteenth-century polyphony, as notated in Royal MS 8 G VII, have been recreated by the choir Alamire and the English Cornett and Sackbut Ensemble, under the directorship of Dr David Skinner. Here is a sound-clip of the opening piece:

Celeste beneficium


Released as ‘The Spy’s Choirbook’, the CD’s title refers to the colourful history of its famous scribe, Petrus Alamire (d. 1536), from whom Skinner’s ensemble borrows its name. In addition to making several similar choirbooks for other European courts, Petrus Alamire was a composer, mining engineer, and diplomat. He acted as a spy for Henry VIII, informing him of the movements of Richard de la Pole, the exiled pretender to the English crown. Surviving letters to the King and to Richard de la Pole suggest that Alamire was simultaneously engaged in counter-espionage. Perhaps gifting this manuscript to Henry was one way for Alamire to smooth over his double-dealing.

Royal_ms_8_g_vii_f003r
Alto and bass parts of the motet ‘Celeste beneficium’ by Jean Mouton,
Royal MS 8 G VII, f. 3r

Naturalistic foliage, birds and insects, common to the south Netherlandish style of illumination, are combined with Tudor symbols such as the dragon and greyhound ‘supporters’ of the royal arms (f. 2v), and heraldic badges including the portcullis, the double rose, and the pomegranate (f. 3r). The exact circumstances of its presentation to Henry and Catherine are unknown, and it has been suggested that the manuscript may originally have been intended for Louis XII of France and Anne of Brittany. ‘Celeste beneficium’, for example, was composed for the French couple, and its text calls upon St Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary, to help bring forth children.

Royal_ms_8_g_vii_f002v_detail
Detail of ‘HK’ in the place of stamens in the marginal flora and fauna,
Royal MS 8 G VII, f. 2v

It is not difficult, however, to imagine the relevance of this text to Henry and Catherine’s pressing need for a male heir. The following two motets (‘Adiutorium nostrum’ and ‘Nesciens mater virgo virum’) continue this theme, and the fusion of Catherine’s emblem, the pomegranate, with the Tudor double rose, is another probable reference to the desire for progeny (see opening image above). Further evidence to support the idea that this manuscript was designed with Henry in mind appears in a tiny detail amidst the flora and fauna of the marginal decoration: the ‘HK’ which serves to substitute the stamens surely refers to ‘Henricus’ and ‘Katharina’. If the intended patrons did change, this must have occurred extremely early in the manuscript’s production.

Adiutorium nostrum


Whatever the case, there is little doubt that this book would have greatly appealed to the King. Henry received a thorough musical education: he played several instruments, sang from sight and composed and arranged music. Indeed, it was Henry’s desire to bring the finest musicians in Europe to play and sing at his court which brought Petrus Alamire into close contact.

Now, perhaps for the first time since Henry’s post-dinner entertainment, we can appreciate the full aural and visual magnificence of this unique volume. See here for further details about the CD, and experience Royal MS 8 G VII in its entirety on Digitised Manuscripts.

- Holly James-Maddocks & Nicolas Bell

14 December 2014

Important notice: Temporary removal of Lindisfarne Gospels from display in the Treasures Gallery

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We would like to advise visitors to the British Library that the Lindisfarne Gospels will not be on display on Tuesday 16 and Wednesday 17 December 2014. The manuscript will be back on display in the Sir John Ritblat Gallery on Thursday 18 December. We apologise for any inconvenience this may cause.

The Lindisfarne Gospels can always be viewed online on Digitised Manuscripts.

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The Lindisfarne Gospels: London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero D. IV, f. 16r.

- Cillian O'Hogan

11 December 2014

An Early Holiday Present: Forty-six new Greek manuscripts online

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Just in time for the holidays, we announce the latest batch of Greek manuscripts to be uploaded to Digitised Manuscripts. This project has been 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.

As always, there is something for everyone in this latest upload. We have already discussed the marvellous Phillipps Lectionary (Add MS 82957) in two blog posts, and as usual, there are many other Biblical manuscripts of interest to peruse. A bumper crop of patristic manuscripts are also included. Particularly noteworthy here is a very fine manuscript of the Orations of Gregory of Nazianzus (Add MS 36634) and a miscellany which may well repay closer attention (Add MS 24375). Some important Byzantine items have also gone online, amongst which pride of place must go to Add MS 36749, which is the sole witness to 122 letters by an unnamed 10th-century Byzantine professor. Those with an interest in the history of scholarship will welcome yet another manuscript formerly owned by Isaac Casaubon, a heavily annotated copy of the Epistles of Phalaris (Royal MS 16 D II). For classicists, the standout items are surely Add MS 58224, an important manuscript of Appian, and last but certainly not least, the famous Burney MS 69, a lavishly-decorated 16th-century manuscript of Greek treatises on warfare.

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.

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Burney MS 69, f 7r, detail. Siege engine from Athenaeus, De Machinis

Add MS 24369, Alexius Aristenus, Nomocanon, and other canonical texts. 15th century.

Add MS 24370, Horologion. 16th century. Illuminated head-pieces and initials. Full leather binding. Rebound in the 19th century, but leather of previous boards onlaid (gilt-tooled, with the Crucifixion at the centre, and emblems of the evangelists).

Add MS 24375, Collection of various theological works, including Maximus the Confessor and Diadorus of Photike, 14th century.

Add MS 24381/1, Wooden board formerly used to in the binding of Add MS 24381, 15th century.

Add MS 26112, Georgius Cedrenus, Compendium historiarum (TLG 3018.001), imperfect, starting from vol. 1, 546.3 and ending with 750.22, συγχάρια τῷ βασιλεῖ (from AD 374 to 641). 12th century.

Add26113
Add MS 26113, f 16v, detail. Oblique or Sinaitic uncial

Add MS 26113, Fragments of hymns (ecclesiastical canons), imperfect. Eastern Mediterranean (Mount Sinai), 8th-9th century. Written in the “oblique uncial” characteristic of Mount Sinai.

Add MS 26114, Fragments from a Menologion. 12th century.

Add MS 27862, John of Damascus, Dialectica sive Capita philosophica (TLG 2934.002) and Expositio fidei (TLG 2934.004); Sketches on the Division of Philosophy according to Christ and On the Seven Good Things; Anastasius of Sinai, Viae dux (TLG 2896.001); selections and fragments from other works (theological and geographical). Byzantine binding (rebacked) of wooden boards covered with blind-tooled leather. Two edge pins, the ends of the straps (now lost) were left over the pastedown and now protrude from the book. The fore-edge is shown on Digitised Manuscripts as f v recto. 11th century.

Add28270f163r detail
Add MS 28270, f 163r, detail. Colophon of Nikolaos, a scribe, dated August 1111 (ςχιθ΄).

Add MS 28270, Saints' lives and selections from John Moschus, Pratum Spirituale, entitled The New Paradise (Τὸ νέον παραδείσει). Italy, S., completed August 1111 by Nikolaos. The script is the ‘Reggio style’. 15th century binding of wooden boards covered with stamped leather

Add MS 28821, Mathematarion in Byzantine music notation, containing works by a number of composers such as Manuel Chrysaphes, John Koukouzeles, John Kladas, Xenos Korones, Chionopoulos, John Glykys, Gregorios Mpounes Alyates, Theodoros Manougras and others. 15th-17th century. The old binding, of wooden boards formerly covered with leather, is kept separately under Add MS 28821/1.

Add MS 28822, Collection of canonical texts, imperfect. 13th century.

Add MS 28828, John Zonaras, Epitome historiarum (TLG 3135.001-002), imperfect; George Akropolites, Annales (TLG 3141.002), imperfect; Leo VI the Wise, Oracula. 14th century. Byzantine binding, recovered (with old board leather onlaid) and probably resewn. Full set of petal-shaped corner bosses and round central ones.

Add MS 29715, Service book, possibly a Sticherarion or a Tropologion, imperfect. 12th-13th century.

Add MS 30043, Σχηματολόγιον, offices of the tonsure and consecration of a monk. 15th century.

Add MS 30510, Fragments of prayers, mainly exorcisms, possibly from a roll, imperfect. 14th century.

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Add MS 31214, f 4r. Illuminated headpiece from a horologion.



Add MS 31214, Horologion. Illuminated headpieces on ff 4r, and 82r. Drawings on f 234v. Decorated initials and headings in red and gold throughout. 12th century.

Add MS 31919, Menaion for February and the Royal Hours for Holy Friday. A palimpsest: the volume is made up of a number of different manuscripts, namely a theological work written in the 12th century, and Gospel manuscripts (Gregory-Aland 0133, 0269, 0271, 0272, 0273, 0297, l 334; Scrivener Υ or Codex Blenheimius, evst. 282; von Soden ε 83). Completed 1431.

Add MS 36539, Pseudo-Sphrantzes (Macarius Melissenus), Chronicon sive Maius (TLG 3176.001). Italy, N.E. (Venice), in the hand of the scribe Manuel Glynzunius (1540-1596).

Add MS 36634, Gregory of Nazianzus, Orationes, followed by Pseudo-Nonnus (Nonnus the Abbot), Scholia mythologica, imperfect. 10th century, ff 1-9 being added on paper in the 15th century. Illuminated headpieces.

Add MS 36670, Laonicus Chalcocondyles, Historiae (History of the Turks 1298-1462) (TLG 3139.001). 16th century.

Add MS 36749, Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistles and Poems; Leo Magister, Poems; Anonymi professoris epistulae; Hierocles, In aureum carmen. 10th century, with some paper additions in Messina (southern Italy) in the 15th century.

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Add MS 36928, f 44v, David seated, playing the harp, accompanied by Melody.

Add MS 36928, Psalter and Canticles (Rahlfs 1089), with additional texts, including Argumentum Psalmorum (a compilation), other patristic works, and calendar-notes. Eight full-page illuminations, much-rubbed. Headings in gold. Blind-tooled leather binding, on wooden boards (17th century?), with strap for clasp. Probably written in or just before 1090: the table of movable feasts (ff 37r-41v) begins with September 1090

Add MS 37534, Life and Miracles of Saints Cosmas and Damianus (BHG 373b), imperfect, lacking two leaves at the beginning and one or two quires after f 14. All the leaves are mutilated, especially at the top. The narrative differs largely in contents, and wholly in language, from that hitherto known. At the end (f 42r) is a hymn to the archangel Michael in a different hand. Egypt, 11th century: Brought from Egypt in 1907 and said to have been found near Edfu (St Mercurius Monastery). Found with Coptic MSS bearing dates in the late 10th and 11th centuries. Written in a very late uncial hand.

Add MS 38790, Cyril of Scythopolis, Vita Sabae (TLG 2877.002), imperfect. 14th century. A colophon on ff 126r-v has been copied from an earlier manuscript, dated 1116. On f 1r is an inscription in Arabic.

Add 39583
Add MS 39583, f 39r, detail. Middle Irish commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates.



Add MS 39583, Fragments collected by Robert Curzon to illustrate the history of writing, including fragments of a Greek Gospel lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 182, Scrivener evst. 233); A leaf from a manuscript containing Ephraem the Syrian, Sermo Compunctorius (CPG 3908); a miniature of St. Mark in the Byzantine style of the ?13th century, probably from a Greek Gospel-book; Facsimile transcript of the Prague fragment of the Codex Forojuliensis of the Gospels; Leaf from a commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates (TLG 0627.012), in Middle Irish. The volume originally contained both Western and Oriental fragments, but the latter have now been transferred to their appropriate departments (Egyptian Antiquities, British Museum, and Asian and African Studies, British Library)

Add MS 39607, John Chrysostom, In epistulam I ad Corinthios homiliae (TLG 2062.156), imperfect. 12th century. Head-pieces tinted yellow, initials slightly tinted.

Add MS 39609, Isaiah of Scetis (Isaiah of Gaza), Asceticon (CPG 5555). 11th century, with paper additions dating from the 17th or 18th century.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.

Add MS 39610, John Climacus, Scala paradisi (TLG 2907.001) and Liber ad Pastorem (CPG 7853), with additional prefatory material. 11th century. Illuminated head-pieces and initials, and a 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.

Add MS 41086, Pentecostarion, imperfect at the beginning. 15th century. Initials and headings in red. 17th-century binding. A later gilt-stamped figure of an angel or evangelist, impressed awry within the top left-hand corner of the outer panel, appears to represent a bungled and abandoned design.

Add MS 41330, Portions of two Euchologia, with many marginal notes. 2nd half of the 15th century (ff 20-128)-4th quarter of the 16th century (ff 1-19). An earlier binding (probably added in the late 16th century when ff 1-19 were inserted) is kept separately under Add MS 41330/1.

Add MS 41483, Greek liturgy. Copied in 1795 by Georgios Gounale, perhaps on Crete? Illuminated initials, headpieces and (ff 2v, 28v) miniatures. Original binding of blind-tooled morocco.

Add_ms_57942_f023r
Add MS 57942, f 23r, Byzantine hymn book with musical notation

Add MS 57942, Collection of stichera and other hymns, with late Byzantine musical notation. 15th-16th century, probably written on Crete.

Add MS 58224, Appian, Historia Romana. Eastern Mediterranean (Crete?), c. 1450-1460. Decorative headpiece on f 1r. The text belongs to Mendelssohn's family i (deteriores). The text breaks off after 11 lines on f 65r, after which 37 unfoliated leaves are left blank, marking the lacuna in the Illyrica first found in Florence, Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, MS 70.5.

Add MS 59864, George Acropolites, Annales (TLG 3141.002), imperfect, expl. (1220A) μετὰ παραδρομήν. Not noted in Heisenberg’s edition of George Acropolites. 2nd quarter of the 14th century. In a 17th century binding of parchment over card boards, with fragments of title-labels on spine. Formerly owned by Sir Thomas Phillipps.

Add MS 82957, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 2376) with illumination and ekphonetic notation. 2nd half of the 11th century, Constantinople.    Illuminated headpieces (ff 1r, 59r, 93r, 137r, 233r) and headbands (ff 210r, 230r, 248v, 257v, 263r, 278r, 292r, 297r, 300r, 301v, 302v, 309r, 312r). Decorated initials, frequently zoomorphic or historiated. Headings and some writing in gold. Occasional flourishes to letters on the final line of a page, especially χ, φ, λ, ι, and ξ. Formerly owned by Sir Thomas Phillipps.

Burney MS 16, Psalter. Coloured penwork headpiece and initial (f 1r). Written by Matthaeus the hieromonk for Pachomius the monk at the Monastery of Saint Catherine, Mount Sinai, and dated 2 July 1661.

Burney MS 18, Four Gospels and Hebrews (Gregory-Aland 480; Scrivener evan. 568; von Soden δ 462), adapted for liturgical use, imperfect, followed by Synaxarion and Menologion. Headpieces decorated in colours and foliate patterns on gold grounds at the beginning of each Gospel (ff 3r, 63r, 101r, 163r). Titles, initials and capitula in gold. In a binding of blue velvet over wooden boards with embroidered Greek spine title, brass corner pieces and two gold plaquettes of the Adoration of the Shepherds and the Adoration of the Magi set into the upper and lower boards, respectively, dating from the last quarter of the 16th century and probably Milanese or North European imitating a Milanese style. Written by Ioasaph of the monastery of the Theotokos ton Hodegon in Constantinople, 4 June 1366

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Burney MS 69, f 12v, detail. Diagram of a siege-engine from Biton, De constructione bellicarum machinarum.

Burney MS 69, Greek treatises on warfare, with numerous drawings. Includes works by Athenaeus, Biton, Heron, Apollodorus, Philo of Byzantium, Leo VI the Wise, and others. Italy, N. E. (Venice), completed 7 May 1545. The scribe of a large portion of the manuscript was identified as that of Escorial MS gr. 138.

Egerton MS 2784, Four Gospels (Gregory-Aland 716; Scrivener evan. 565; von Soden ε 448). 14th century. A former binding (16th-century stamped black leather) is preserved in the box containing the manuscript, and is now ff iii-v.

Egerton MS 2786, Gospel Lectionary (Gregory-Aland l 346; Scrivener evst. 255). Imperfect and partly palimpsest: ff 55 to 157 are composed of leaves from at least four manuscripts of the 12th century, of which one (ff 59, 60) is a Lectionary, containing lections from Matthew; another (ff 55, 64, 73, 80, 84, 85) is a manuscript of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, written in double columns, and containing portions of the Orations (among others, parts of Orations 37, 38, 45); a third (f 132) is a manuscript of the Septuagint, containing part of Daniel 3; and the rest are from a theological work, most of which is wholly obliterated. 12th-14th century. 5 headpieces in red and brown with a braided or geometric pattern (ff. 40v, 65v, 96v, 132, 136v). Large initials in red and/or brown and red with penwork decoration, some anthropomorphic with a hand blessing. Smaller simpler initials in red. Simple headpieces in brown and red. Highlighting of letters in red.

Egerton MS 2787, Acts and Epistles (Gregory-Aland 913; Scrivener act. 223; von Soden α 470). 14th century, produced in the Levant, according to J. W. Burgon, based on the ornamentation. 19 large headpieces in red and/or brown or yellow with penwork decoration at the beginning of most books (ff 1r, 11r, 72r, 96r, 119v, 136r, 146v, 155v, 163r, 169v, 175r, 179r, 186r, 191r, 194r, 198v, 216v, 234v, 241r). Simple headpieces in red or brown. Large initials in brown and red with penwork decoration. Small initials in red. Text in red. In a binding of wooden (oak?) boards, possibly the original, with grooved edges, rebacked. Formerly fully covered in leather, fragment remains at the back edge.

Kings MS 17, Scholia on Pindar's Olympian and Pythian Odes. Italy, N., 4th quarter of the 15th century.

Royal MS 1 A XV, Old Testament: Proverbs, Wisdom, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon (Rahlfs 425), in Greek and Latin. 15th century, possibly written at Crete.

Royal MS 1 D II, Old Testament: Historical books and Isaiah of the Septuagint version (Rahlfs 93), imperfect and with extensive marginal notes. 13th century, with additions in the 15th century.

Royal MS 16 C XXIII, Philostratus, Heroicus, Imagines, and Vitae Sophistarum. 15th century.

Royal MS 16 D II Epistles of Phalaris (TLG 0053.001), with many marginal annotations, imperfect. Italy, N. (Venice), 2nd half of the 15th century. Owned by Isaac Casaubon.

- Cillian O’Hogan

06 December 2014

Report on the Fourteenth-Century Illuminated Manuscripts Conference

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The 1 December conference celebrating the publication of Professor Lucy Freeman Sandler’s new book was a great success, with around 140 delegates attending. Her book, Illuminators and Patrons in Fourteenth-Century England: The Psalter Hours of Humphrey de Bohun and the Manuscripts of the Bohun Family will be described in more detail in a forthcoming post. 

Coffee break
The conference was held in association with AMARC (the Association for Manuscripts and Archives in Research Collections), which welcomed many new members to the organisation. The day began with a welcome from Claire Breay, Head of the Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts section of the Library, followed by papers by six speakers. 

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Detail of a miniature of the Beast rising from the sea, from a fragmentary Anglo-Norman Apocalypse, England, early 14th century, Add MS 38842, f. 4v

Paul Binski opened proceedings with his paper on Lombardy and Norfolk, which re-examined the question of Italian influence in English art before 1350 and what is known about Italian art actually in England at that date.  Nigel Morgan then delivered his paper on a little-studied fragmentary Anglo-Norman prose Apocalypse in the British Library, Additional 38842. He compared its iconography with that found in Anglo-Norman and Latin apocalypses, noting in particular instances where the miniatures in Additional 38842 reflected more accurately the narrative in the text, which raised the possibility that the artist could read Anglo-Norman.

Coffee break 2

Before the lunch break Bernard Meehan, the new Chair-elect of AMARC presented the outgoing Chair, Christopher De Hamel with a signed copy of Lucy’s new book in thanks for his many years of service. As well as encouraging attendees to join the Association, Bernard also announced the dates of the two upcoming AMARC meetings: 30 April 2015 at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, and 10-11 September in Dublin. Add them to your diary now!

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Detail of a miniature of Michal helping David to escape the soldiers of Saul, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England, 1310-1320, Royal MS 2 B VII, f. 52r

The second session was begun by Kathryn Smith, who had travelled from New York for the conference. Kathryn examined the Old Testament prefatory cycle in the Queen Mary Psalter (Royal 2 B.vii), and discussed 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. Alixe Bovey followed, presenting new evidence for the patronage of the Smithfield Decretals, Royal 10 E. iv, and its connection to the Batayle family.

In the final session, Julian Luxford examined Additional 39758 and Additional 47170 and evidence of the involvement of Walter of Whittlesey, a monk of Peterborough abbey, as the person who commissioned, copied or decorated them. Julian’s paper revealed the character of historical study within one of the major East Anglian monastic foundations and the role that this roll and codex may have played as ‘vindicative’ texts of the abbey’s precedence and property in the region.

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

The day concluded with a paper by Lucy Freeman Sandler. Drawing on the research conducted for her new book, she challenged the assumed marginality of decoration at the edges of the text of the Bohun Psalter, Egerton 3277. These strange drawings are in fact ‘embedded’ in the area adjacent to the historiated initials, both initial and drawing being enveloped by the same gold background. Lucy highlighted many such decorations that offered analogues or subversions of the narrative summarised by the historiated initials, while acknowledging that the meaning of many remained obscure and the subject for future research.

Presentation

The proceedings were brought to a close with a vote of thanks by Kathleen Doyle, Lead Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library. As thanks for her paper, and in acknowledgement of her nearly 60 years’ work on the manuscripts, Lucy was presented with a large poster of one of the initials from the Bohun Psalter. The opportunity to secure a signed copy of Lucy’s new book was seized by many of the conference attendees.  Further copies (unsigned) are still available from the British Library shop!

04 December 2014

New Images on the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts

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Exciting news for those of our readers who might want to search for an image of a 13th-century devil with horns, an English drawing of a horse from the 10th century, rain over the Italian countryside, severed limbs or even Job afflicted with boils. More than 200 new images are now available online in our Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts. For those who have not yet used this catalogue, it has an advanced search page which allows you to search for key words combined with place of origin, date range and many other criteria: http://www.bl.uk/catalogues/illuminatedmanuscripts/search2.asp.

Over 4000 illuminated manuscripts from 800 to 1800 have been catalogued to date and we have now added a new selection with images and descriptions that were not previously available online, mostly from the Additionals series.  The following examples show the range and variety of the items newly catalogued:

A Dutch copy of the legend of Jason and Medea (Add MS 10290)

This features colour-wash images of some dramatic and bloodthirsty scenes:

C13575-52
Medea with Jason and the Argonauts in a ship, about to throw the head of her brother into the sea with his severed limbs, to stop her father, King Oethes, who is pursuing them in the other ship; above left, Jason’s abandoned lover Hypsipyle is about to jump off a cliff; from ‘Historie van Jason’, Germany or Netherlands, N. (Harlem), between 1475 and 1480, Add MS 10290,  f. 118

The ‘Huth Psalter’ (Add MS 38116)

Named after Alfred Huth, who donated his collection of manuscripts to the British Museum in 1912, this is a pocket-sized psalter in Latin from Lincoln or York, with an Anglo-Norman text for calculating Easter added at the beginning. It contains 11 full-page miniatures in the style of the William of Devon manuscripts (Royal MS 1 D I, Egerton MS 1151, and others. Simple search using the keywords ‘William of Devon’ and you will find them all in the catalogue. To continue with the gory theme, this one shows  a young child being held aloft on a spear by one of Herod’s soldiers:

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The Adoration of the Magi: Herod orders the Massacre of the Innocents; the Massacre of the Innocents with a young boy's body held up on a spear, from the ‘Huth Psalter’ England (Lincoln or York?), 4th quarter of the 13th century, Add MS 38116, f. 10r.

A miscellany of scientific and grammatical texts in Latin and Anglo-Norman French (Add MS 17716)

This manuscript contains treatises on French spelling and grammar, as well as Manieres de langage, a text used for teaching the French language in England in the 15th century. It includes several short tales in French, apparently as examples for reading or language practice, one of which has the intriguing title Le mari cocu, battu et content (‘The husband who is cheated on, beaten up and happy’). The story is about a pair of young lovers who concoct an elaborate ruse. The beautiful young wife tells her elderly husband Mr Bon (who has only three grey hairs left) that the falconer (her lover) is a blackguard who wants to seduce her. If he (Bon) disguises himself as her and waits in the garden that night, he will catch him at his tricks. Bon duly waits in the garden for several hours while the lovers have fun inside. Finally the falconer goes to the garden and pretends to make love to Bon dressed as a woman. When Bon responds, the falconer pretends to be horrified and says that he was only there to test his master’s wife’s honour. He beats Bon with a stick in supposed punishment and sends him inside, where Bon finds his wife lying ‘innocently’ in bed, waiting for him. Bon is delighted that his wife and falconer have been so honourable towards him and resolves to treat the falconer as part of the family.  Of course the lovers are delighted!

The manuscript also contains a Latin poem on algorithms and treatise on the movement of the planets, part of which is shown here:

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Text page with pen-flourished initials of an astronomical treatise, from a Scientific and Grammatical Miscellany,  England, 1st half of the 15th century, Add MS 17716, f. 11r.

Prudentius, Psychomachia (Add MS 24199):

This is a 10th-century copy of the allegorical poem by Aurelius Prudentius Clemens (348-c. 405), made in the south of England. It concerns the struggle between the Vices and Virtues for possession of the human soul. The origin of the manuscript is unknown but it was at Bury St Edmunds Abbey in the 14th century (it contains their pressmark) and then in the library of Thomas Tenison, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1694 to 1715. The outline drawings of allegorical figures are finely executed with their garments drawn in some detail, providing examples of the tunics and veils worn by Anglo-Saxon women in this period.

K151228
Two ink drawings of Superbia's horse grinding its teeth (above) and Superbia reining in her horse, pointing her hand towards three figures in short robes, probably other vices, while Humility and Hope stand on the right, from Aurelius Prudentius, Psychomachia, England, S., 4th quarter of the 10th century, Add MS 24199, f. 12v

Cibo Botanical manuscripts (Add MS 22332  and Add MS 22333)

These 16th-century Italian botanical manuscripts contain watercolours of the flora and landscapes of the Ancona region of Italy by the amateur botanist Gherardo Cibo (b. 1512, d. 1600).

C12611-09
Full page botanical painting of Galanthus (Snowdrop) on the right and a blue-flowering bulb, probably Ipheion on the left, with a botanist and a young man gathering plants on a mountain top, from Gherardo Cibo, Extracts of Dioscorides' 'De re medica', with botanical paintings, Italy, Central (Urbino), c. 1564-1584, Add MS 22332, f. 35r.

A Bible from Bologna: Add MS 18720

Seventy-five gorgeous illuminated pages are newly published for this manuscript.

K137746
Historiated initial 'E'(t) at the beginning of the book of Jonah, of Jonah holding a scroll, from a Bible in two volumes, Italy, N. (Bologna), 4th quarter of the 13th century, Add MS 18720, f. 376r.
 

Let us know on Twitter @BLMedieval of any of your favourite images – new or old – from the Catalogue of Illuminated Manuscripts!

- Chantry Westwell