Medieval manuscripts blog

154 posts categorized "Royal"

05 December 2012

Lions, Monkeys and Bears - Oh, My! The Bohun Psalter and Hours

Add comment Comments (1)


Historated initial 'D'(omini) at the Penitential Psalms: the priests give Judas money (Luke 22:5), Christ sends Peter and John to prepare the passover (Luke 22:8), the Last Supper, the Agony in the Garden, and the Last Judgment in the border, from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England, second half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 133r.


The Bohun Psalter and Hours (Egerton MS 3277) is, as Lucy Freeman Sandler describes it, 'virtually a royal manuscript'. It was probably produced for Humphrey de Bohun, 7th Earl of Hereford, Essex and Northampton (d. 1373), who was the great-grandson of King Edward I, and the father of Eleanor (who married Thomas of Woodstock, son of Edward III), and of Mary (the wife of Henry of Bolingbroke, who later became Henry IV).

This Psalter is part of a larger group of at least 10 manuscripts that were created for various generations of the Bohun family by a scriptorium and workshop in residence at the main Bohun home of Pleshey Castle, Essex. It is unclear whether this sort of arrangement existed with other noble families of this time, but this may have been a comparatively common practice for the English aristocracy.



Historiated initial 'S'(alvum) at the beginning of Psalm 68 ('Salvum me fac Deus'), with scenes of the Ark's arrival in Jerusalem, and to the left of the initial, King David standing holding his harp, with a small hybrid musician playing under his feet, from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England, second half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 46v.


The Bohun Psalter and Hours was probably written around 1361, and the first campaign of illumination – verse initials and line fillers – was likely completed at this time. Little appears to have been done on the manuscript until the 1380s, when work on the Bohun Psalter and Hours was resurrected and the major initials and other miniatures were completed. The original programme of illumination contained nearly 400 subjects, both large and small, although a number of decorated pages were later excised – get in touch if you see anything similar at a car boot sale! As Lucy Freeman Sandler has pointed out, the various 'minor' components of illumination, such as the marginalia, often complement or respond to the 'main' meaning of the historiated initials. For example, see the large historiated initial on f. 29v (which was the opening on display during the Royal exhibition).



Historiated initial 'D'(ixit) of four scenes in the life of David: Saul entering the cave in which David and his men are hiding to relieve himself; David cutting a corner of Saul's robe; David calling after Saul with the corner of his robe and Saul speaking to David, confessing that he believes David will soon be king, at the beginning of Psalm 38, The Canticle of David, from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England, second half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 29v.

The initial 'D'(ixit) at the beginning of Psalm 38 (above and below) was one of the major divisions of the Psalter, and was commonly marked out for special decoration at this period. The iconography in this scene is remarkable. On the outer edges of the initial are four human and hybrid musicians, playing the viol, horn, cymbals and harp – all instruments mentioned in the Psalter.



Detail of an historiated initial 'D'(ixit) of four scenes in the life of David, at the beginning of Psalm 38, The Canticle of David, from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England, second half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 29v.


In the centre of the initial are four scenes taken from I Kings: 24 (1 Samuel: 24 in the current division of the Bible). This book narrates the conflict between King Saul and David, and the first scene in the upper left shows Saul and his army searching for David and his men in the wilderness of Engedi. Saul enters a cave in which, unknown to him, David and his men are hiding. Saul is described in various translations of the Bible as needing to 'cover his feet', 'relieve nature', or even 'go to the bathroom', as can be seen in the upper right. David is shown standing behind the vulnerable Saul and, according to the text, his men urge him to kill the king, but instead David cuts off part of Saul’s cloak. After Saul leaves the cave, David approaches him, in the lower scene on the left. David holds out the cut cloth and tells Saul that although he had the opportunity to kill him, he did not, as Saul is his king and the Lord’s anointed. Saul sees this as evidence of David’s righteousness, and proclaims that David will be his successor for the kingdom of Israel; on the lower right David swears fealty – interestingly, with his hand on a book – and Saul anoints him as future king.

Besides depicting this unusual scene from the Bible, this miniature makes a number of ideological points. Bear in mind that this was painted during the Hundred Years' War. If you look on the right, you can see the arms of France in the initial frame, which aligns Saul with the French ruler. On the left part of the initial are the arms of England as well as those of the Bohun family, which are similarly aligned with the ultimately-prevailing King David.



Detail of an historiated initial 'D'(efecit) of the Ark of the Covenant being carried into the Temple, with an ape and a bear in the margins, from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England, second half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 84r.

On f. 84r (above) is an historiated initial 'D'(efecit in salutare meum anima mea), or 'My soul hath fainted after thy salvation'. This is at Psalm 118:81, a subdivision of what is a very long Psalm indeed. Inside this initial, King Solomon is shown accompanying the Ark of the Covenant, which looks like a chest of pirate booty, into the Temple of Jerusalem (from III Kings 8:6). Similarly, the upright ape standing on the initial is also carrying a bag of money, and seems to mimick the procession below. He is carrying an owl, which would have been understood by medieval readers as a reference to a fairly well-known saying: 'Pay me no less than an ape, an owl, and an ass', although of course the ass is absent.

This ape focuses attention on the piety displayed in the initial, but it may refer to those who laboured to create the manuscript itself, as artists at the time were often described as 'apes of nature'. Further evidence of this can be seen above – look at the bear who sits uncomfortably on the lower extender of the initial, and who appears to be licking a pen, in preparation for working on a scroll of music. This may be intended to represent the scribes who worked on this manuscript.



Detail of a marginal illumination of a bear-scribe writing on a scroll, from the Bohun Psalter and Hours, England, second half of the 14th century, Egerton MS 3277, f. 13v.

Lest you think this bear-scribe is too fanciful, see one final detail from f. 13v, the last folio of the first quire. There are a number of bears to be found elsewhere in the Bohun Psalter and Hours, but this one does not seem to be directly related to the text nearby. This bear stands holding a quill and working on a scroll. Behind the bear is a goose, in the act of literally goosing the bear. The first word on this bear's scroll is 'screbere' which is conveniently split so that the second word is bere – of course a reference to the creature itself. But the rest of the text is not so immediately apparent: following 'screbere' is some indecipherable scribbling, and then the names 'mar / tinet' and 'robi / net', and on the back is 'pi / erz'. So these are the names Martin, Robert and Piers – presumably the names of three scribes who worked on this very manuscript.

But what might seem like a self-reference is more complicated, because this image was created not by the scribes but by an artist whose name does not survive. Perhaps he was poking fun at those with whom he worked closely to produce such a well-integrated manuscript? Perhaps this is a partial explanation for the disrespectful goose? A larger question is for whom this sort of humour was intended. Lucy Sandler has noted that the artist responsible for much of this Psalter continued working for the Bohun family for decades after the manuscript was finished, so it is hard to imagine that they objected to this in-joke. An inventory made of the library at Pleshey Castle at the end of the 14th century includes more than 120 books, including a number of Bibles and other religious texts. Indeed, it is likely, knowing what we do of the Bohuns, that they would have appreciated this clever interplay between human and animal, text and image.

- Sarah J Biggs

19 November 2012

New Additions to Digitised Manuscripts

Add comment Comments (0)


Detail of a miniature of the animals leaving Noah's Ark; from the Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410-1430, Add. MS 18850, f. 16v.

The project of digitising manuscripts from the recent Royal Manuscripts exhibition continues apace! We are pleased to report that the project is nearly complete: of the manuscripts scheduled to be digitized, only the Alphonso Psalter (Add. MS 24686) remains unfinished. It has also become possible to add one more manuscript from the exhibition to the list, a manuscript that has yet to be chosen. We would love suggestions as to which it should be. Do you have a favourite manuscript from the Royal exhibition that did not make our original cut? Please send us your nominations for a final addition to our project, and we hope to be able to announce its completion soon. All suggestions can be posted here as comments, or submitted via email to Royal-Manuscripts-Digitization[at]


Miniature of musicians performing before Alexander the Great; from Secretum Secretorum, translated by Philip of Tripoli, England (London), 1326-1327, Add. MS 47680, f. 18v.

Once all the manuscripts from the Royal exhibition digitisation project are published online, we will post a comprehensive list on this blog. In the meantime, the latest batch to be made newly available is listed below.


Detail of a miniature of David killing a lion, having already dispatched a bear and a unicorn; from the Bedford Psalter and Hours, England (London), 1414-1422, Add. MS 42131, f. 95r.

Additional MS 18850: the Bedford Hours, France (Paris), c. 1410-1430.

Additional MS 42131: the Bedford Psalter and Hours, England (London), 1414-1422.

Additional MS 47680: Secretum Secretorum, translated into Latin by Philip of Tripoli, England (London), 1326-1327.

Cotton MS Tiberius A. II: the Coronation Gospels of King Aethelstan (r. 924-939), Lobbes (?) (in what is now Belgium), 4th quarter of the 9th century, with some later additions (previously featured on this blog).


Miniature of God creating the world; from Guyart des Moulins, Bible historiale, France (Paris and Clairefontaine), 1411, Royal MS 19 D. iii, vols 1 and 2, f. 3r.

Royal MS 2 A. xxii: the Westminster Psalter, England (Westminster), c. 1200-c. 1250 (previously featured on this blog).

Royal MS 6 E. ix: the Address of Prato, Italy (Tuscany), c. 1335 (previously featured on this blog, and part of a new exhibition at the Getty in Los Angeles).

Royal MS 14 E. i, vols 1 and 2: Le miroir historial by Vincent of Beauvais, the Netherlands (Bruges), 1479-1480 (previously featured on this blog).

Royal MS 16 F. ii: poetry by Charles of Orleans, epistles of Pseudo-Heloise, 'Les demandes d'amour' and 'Le livre dit grace entiere', Bruges and London, 1483 and 1492-1500 (previously featured on this blog).

Royal MS 19 D. iii, vols 1 and 2: Bible historiale by Guyart des Moulins, France (Paris and Clairefontaine), 1411.

Royal MS 20 E. ix: the Rotz Atlas (the Boke of Idrography by Jean Rotz), France and England (London), c. 1535-1542.


Map of the West Indies, including the coastlines of Peru, Cuba and Florida; from the Rotz Atlas, France and England (London), c. 1535-1542, Royal MS 20 E. ix, f. 24r.

16 November 2012

British Library Manuscripts Featured in New Getty Exhibition

Add comment Comments (0)

K90049-88 Royal 6 E. ix ff. 4v-5 

Miniature of Christ in glory holding a globe and blessing the Virgin (on the following page); miniature of the Virgin kneeling (towards Christ on the previous page), from the Address in verse to Robert of Anjou, King of Naples, from the town of Prato in Tuscany (the Carmina regia), illuminated by Pacino di Buonaguida, central Italy (Tuscany), c. 1335 - c. 1340, Royal MS 6 E. ix, ff. 4v-5r.

An exciting new exhibition has just opened at the Getty Center in Los Angeles: Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance: Painting and Illumination, 1300-1350.  Please see here for a fabulous review of the Getty exhibition.

An important British Library manuscript, the Carmina regia, an address by the city of Prato to Robert of Anjou (Royal MS 6 E. ix) is featured in the exhibition (see here for an earlier blog post abot the Carmina).  This manuscript was also showcased in the Library’s recent Royal Manuscripts exhibition, but visitors to the Los Angeles exhibition will be able to see a different image, that of Christ Enthroned (f. 4v, see above, and at the bottom for a version of the image used to promote the exhibition).

The Carmina regia is now also available to be viewed in full on the Digitised Manuscripts website (see here).


K047548 Add 18196, f. 1

Miniature of Agnes enthroned flanked by two musician angels, with scenes from her life below. Beneath the miniature is a single four-line red stave, musical notation and a single line of text in gold capitals 'Sancta Agnese da dio'.  Illuminated by Pacino di Buonaguida, Italy (Florence), c. 1340, Additional 18196, f. 1


The Library has also lent two leaves to the exhibition, which were both originally part of a single manuscript: Additional 18196, f. 1, with scenes from the life of St Agnes (see above), and Additional 35254B, with part of a hymn to St Michael. These leaves have been reunited in the exhibition with others from the same book of songs (or laudario) made for the Compagnia di Sant'Agnese, which was based at the church of Santa Maria del Carmine in Florence.  28 leaves or fragments of this book survive, and 25 of them are featured in the exhibition.


C00800-06 Add 35254B

Miniature of the Apparition of Michael.  Beneath the miniature is a single four-line red stave, musical notation and a single line of text in gold capitals 'Exultando in Gesu'. Illuminated by Pacino di Buonaguida, Italy (Florence), c. 1340, Additional 35254B


The curator of the exhibition, Christine Sciacca, explains that this book was originally 'the most spectacular Florentine manuscript commission' from the first half of the 14th century.  (Christine Sciacca, 'Reconstructing the Laudario of Sant-Agnese', in Florence at the Dawn of the Renaissance, ed by Christine Sciacca (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2012), pp. 219-35 (p. 219)).

All three loaned works were painted by Pacino di Buonaguida, who was active in Florence in the first half of the 14th century.

- Kathleen Doyle



05 November 2012

Beautiful Contraband: The Queen Mary Psalter

Add comment Comments (0)

We are thrilled to announce the long-awaited upload of the Queen Mary Psalter to our Digitised Manuscripts site (click here for the full manuscript).  We discussed the Psalter last year in our post Rival Queens, Precious Books, but here is a bit of a recap...


Miniature of the Crucifixion, with eight niches occupied by male figures, with an historiated initial 'A'(d), with a pope, king, bishop and two others kneeling before an altar, with a bas-de-page scene of Christina cast into the sea and rescued by angels, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 256v


The Psalter is named, as you might imagine, for Queen Mary Tudor (1516 - 1558), daughter of King Henry VIII, but the manuscript was not made for her - in fact, it was produced nearly 200 years before Mary's birth.  The Psalter was created in England, probably in London or East Anglia, between 1310 and 1320.  Some scholars argue that it was made for Isabella of France (1295 - 1358), Queen of England and consort of Edward II, but unfortunately there is no certainty about this point.  The Psalter was certainly created for an aristocratic patron, and possibly a royal one, but the lack of any colophon or coats of arms in the manuscript means that it has been impossible to conclusively link it to any original owner. 



Miniature of the Tree of Jesse, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 67v


More is known about the manuscript itself, which was put together with an enormous amount of care.  The Psalter opens with a unique cycle of Old Testament miniatures, which details events from the Fall of Lucifer to the death of Solomon and is accompanied by an Anglo-Norman commentary found nowhere else; it was probably commissioned particularly for this manuscript. This is followed by a calendar, the Psalter (Book of Psalms) proper, Canticles, and Litany, and virtually all of the manuscript is in the hand of one scribe.



Miniature of Christ in the Temple speaking to the doctors, with the Virgin and Joseph behind, and six niches with prophets, accompanying the text of Psalm 52, with a bas-de-page scene of a mounted man and two mounted women hawking, with a man on foot holding a lure, and a hawk attacking a duck, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 151r


The layout of the text was meticulously planned to fit almost seamlessly with the nearly unparalleled program of decoration in the Psalter.  The sheer number of images throughout are staggering; there are 223 Old Testament images, 24 calendar scenes, 104 half- or full-page miniatures, 23 historiated initials, and 464 marginal or bas-de-page drawings.  Most remarkably, every image in the manuscript was produced by a single highly-skilled artist, now known as the Queen Mary Master.

We know very little about where the Queen Mary Psalter was during the first two centuries of its existence.  By the early 1550s it had come into the hands of Henry Manners, the 2nd earl of Rutland (1526 - 1563), who as a devout Protestant was arrested by Mary in May of 1553, shortly after she took the throne.  A much-erased note on f. 84r reads:  'This boke was sume tyme [under erasure: the Erle of Rutelands], and it was his wil / that it shulde by successioun all way / go to the [under erasure: lande of Ruteland] or to / [partially erased: him that linyally succedis by reson / of inheritaunce in the seide lande'].




It is uncertain what happened to the Psalter after Rutland's arrest, but in October of 1553 it was seized by an eagle-eyed and opportunistic customs officer named Baldwin Smith; there presumably had been an attempt to remove the manuscript from England.  Smith inscribed his name and the circumstances of this seizure at the end of the manuscript (see f. 319v) and then presented it as a gift to Queen Mary.  Mary clearly valued the Psalter very highly; she had it rebound to include the pomegranate device that she had inherited from her mother (see above, now much worn), and there is some evidence to suggest that she used it in her personal devotions. 

If you would like more information about the Queen Mary Psalter, it is among those manuscripts featured in the Royal app, which is still available for download.  We hope that you enjoy paging through this treasure on Digitised Manuscripts (online here); a few of our favourite images are below.



Miniature of God the Creator holding a compass with angels and cherubins, and Lucifer with fallen angels and devils, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 1v



Detail of a miniature of two centaurs with bows, aiming their arrows at nearby birds (for the zodiac sign Sagittarius), from a calendar page for November, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 82r



Detail of a miniature of the three Magi before Herod, with a bas-de-page scene of a bear on a chain springing at a woman, while a man is whipping him, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 131r



Detail of a bas-de-page scene of two hybrid grotesques (each half-fish), with shields and lances, jousting with one another in the ocean, from the Queen Mary Psalter, England (London or East Anglia), between 1310 and 1320, Royal MS 2 B. vii, f. 143v

- Sarah J Biggs

26 October 2012

What's on Digitised Manuscripts? The Top 10

Add comment Comments (0)

The British Library's Digitised Manuscripts site, launched in September 2010, is now over two years old. You may not have noticed everything that has appeared online so far, so here are our medieval and early modern highlights, in approximate chronological order:

The St Cuthbert Gospel (Add MS 89000)

Add MS 89000, f. 34r

The Lindisfarne Gospels (Cotton MS Nero D IV)

The Old English Hexateuch (Cotton MS Claudius B IV)

The Theodore Psalter (Add MS 19352)

Add MS 19352, f. 57v

Gerald of Wales (Royal MS 13 B VIII)

Matthew Paris, Historia Anglorum and Chronica maiora (Royal MS 14 C VII)

Royal MS 14 C VII, f. 2r

Sumer Is Icumen In (Harley MS 978)

The Gorleston Psalter (Add MS 49622)

The Smithfield Decretals (Royal MS 10 E IV)

The Psalter of Henry VIII (Royal MS 2 A XVI)

Royal 2 A xvi f. 30
Royal MS 2 A XVI, f. 30r

More content is being added on a regular basis, and updates will appear on this blog and via our Twitter feed, @blmedieval. Which highlights would you have chosen?

18 October 2012

British Library Journal Now Online

Add comment Comments (0)

A sixteenth-century design for a revolving reading desk: Agostino Ramelli, Le diverse et artificiose machine; composte in lingua Italiana et Francese (Paris, 1588), p. 317. London, British Library, 48.f.15.

A few months ago, we drew your attention to the Electronic British Library Journal, which publishes scholarly research into the history of the British Library and its collections (Medieval News and Views). The eBLJ (for short) is the successor to the British Library Journal, which appeared between 1975 and 1999. We are delighted to report that articles from the British Library Journal are now available online, bringing the combined back catalogue of the British Library Library and eBLJ into one simple location.

A full listing of British Library Journal articles from 1975 onwards is found here. Below you will find hyperlinks to those contributions relating to ancient, medieval and early modern manuscripts. The topics covered include Magna Carta, Codex Sinaiticus, the Bedford Hours, the Cotton Genesis, Christine de Pizan, and the Sforza Hours; while a quick glance at the list of contributors -- among them Janet Backhouse, Christopher de Hamel, Thomas Kren, Nigel Morgan and Colin Tite -- emphasizes the journal's scholarly reputation.

We continue to welcome contributions to the Electronic British Library Journal, and will also endeavour to publicise the fruits of that research in the Medieval and Earlier Manuscripts Blog.

British Library Journal articles

1 (1975)

Janet Backhouse, An illuminator’s sketchbook

T. S. Pattie, The ruling as a clue to the make-up of a medieval manuscript

2 (1976)

Michael Borrie, What became of Magna Carta?

D. H. Turner, The Wyndham Payne Crucifixion

3 (1977)

T. S. Pattie, The Codex Sinaiticus

Lotte Hellinga & Hilton Kelliher, The Malory manuscript

4 (1978)

R. F. Green, Notes on some manuscripts of Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes

5 (1979)

Judith Oliver, Reconstruction of a Liège Psalter-Hours

Retha M. Warnicke, The Laurence Nowell manuscripts in the British Library

6 (1980)

Colin G. C. Tite, The early catalogues of the Cottonian library

7 (1981)

Andrew G. Watson, An early thirteenth-century Low Countries booklist

Janet Backhouse, A reappraisal of the Bedford Hours

Kristine Edmondson Haney, The paint surfaces in the Psalter of Henry of Blois

9 (1983)

Sandra Hindman, The composition of the manuscript of Christine de Pizan’s collected works in the British Library: a reassessment

10 (1984)

Janet Backhouse, The making of the Harley Psalter    

12 (1986)

M. L. Evans, A newly discovered leaf of ‘The Sforza Hours’

13 (1987)

T. S. Pattie, Ephraem the Syrian and the Latin manuscripts of ‘De Paenitentia’ 

John N. King, The account book of a Marian bookseller, 1553-4

Penelope Wallis, The embroidered binding of the Felbrigge Psalter

Marian Wenzel, Deciphering the Cotton Genesis miniatures: preliminary observations concerning the use of colour

Andrew Prescott, The structure of English pre-Conquest Benedictionals

Nigel Morgan, The artists of the Rutland Psalter

Christopher de Hamel, Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts from the library of Sir Sydney Cockerell (1867-1962)

Janet Backhouse, The Tilliot Hours: comparisons and relationships

M. L. Evans, New light on the ‘Sforziada’ frontispieces of Giovan Pietro Birago

14 (1988)

Bodo Brinkmann, The Hastings Hours and the Master of 1499

15 (1989)

Clyve Jones, The Harley family and the Harley papers

16 (1990)

Rosamond McKitterick, Carolingian uncial: a context for the Lothar Psalter

Andreas Petzold, Colour notes in English Romanesque manscripts

Linda Ehrsam Voigts, The ‘Sloane group’: related scientific and medical manuscripts from the fifteenth century in the Sloane collection

Barry Taylor, An old Spanish translation from the 'Flores Sancti Bernardi' in British Library Add. MS. 14040, ff. 111v-112v

David Hook, Egerton MSS. 302 and 303: a Spanish chronicle cycle and its history

J. E. Cross, Missing folios in Cotton MS. Nero A. I

17 (1991)

Colin G. C. Tite, A catalogue of Sir Robert Cotton’s printed books?

David H. Wright, From a copy to facsimile: a millennium of studying the Vatican Vergil

S. E. Lee, Two fragments from Cotton MS. Otho B. X

18 (1992)

Janet Backhouse, Sir Robert Cotton’s record of a royal bookshelf

James P. Carley, The Royal library as a source for Sir Robert Cotton’s collection: a preliminary list of acquisitions

E. C. Teviotdale, Some classified catalogues of the Cottonian library

Colin G. C. Tite, ‘Lost or stolen or strayed’: a survey of manuscripts formerly in the Cotton library

Elisabeth M. C. van Houts, Camden, Cotton and the chronicles of the Norman Conquest of England

Sylvia Wright, The author portraits in the Bedford Psalter-Hours: Gower, Chaucer and Hoccleve

20 (1994)

Michelle P. Brown, The role of the wax tablet in medieval literacy: a reconsideration in light of a recent find from York

W. Schipper, Dry-point compilation notes in the Benedictional of St Aethelwold

Lynda Dennison, The Apocalypse. British Library, Royal MS. 19 B. XV: a reassessment of its artistic context in an early fourteenth-century English manuscript illumination

Margaret Connolly, Public revisions or private responses? The oddities of BL, Arundel MS. 197, with special reference to Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God

Patricia Basing, Robert Beale and the Queen of Scots

T. S. Pattie, A fragment of Ephraem the Syrian and the rare word asiantos vindicated

22 (1996)

Simon Keynes, The reconstruction of a burnt Cottonian manuscript: the case of Cotton MS. Otho A. I 

David Postles, The Garendon cartularies in BL, Lansdowne 415

Thomas Kren, Some newly discovered miniatures by Simon Marmion and his workshop

23 (1997)

David G. Selwyn, ‘Books with manuscript’: the case of Thomas Cranmer’s library

24 (1998) 

J. H. Bowman, The Codex Alexandrinus and the Alexandrian Greek types

25 (1999)

Stella Panayotova, Cuttings from an unknown copy of the Magna Glossatura in a Wycliffite Bible (British Library, Arundel MS. 104)

Joyce Coleman, New evidence about Sir Geoffrey Luttrell’s raid on Sempringham Priory, 1312

05 October 2012

Digitising Royal: New Perspectives on the Royal Manuscript Collection: A Workshop at the British Library

Add comment Comments (0)

Royal Workshop

Following on the success of our recent Royal workshop in Durham, Illuminated Manuscripts and Their Users, we are pleased to announce that we will offer another, this time in London.  This workshop will take place at the British Library on 9 November, from 10:30 - 13:00, and will focus on the issues and opportunities surrounding our recent digitisation efforts.  The workshop will allow the participants to interact with a selection of manuscripts from the Royal collection, as well as their newly-created digital surrogates.

The session will open with a brief overview of our recent digitisation efforts by project supervisor Dr Kathleen Doyle, called 'Digitised Manuscripts at the British Library.'  Dr Joanna Fronska and Sarah J Biggs will then speak about the variety of challenges (and opportunities) that have arisen in the course of the complicated Royal digitisation programme.

This will be followed by three presentations on the various aspects of research made possible (or significantly easier!) by the existence of digital surrogates; these surrogates will be examined in detail alongside the manuscripts themselves.

Joanna Fronska: 'The Making of the Coronation Book of Charles V (Cotton MS Tiberius B. viii, ff. 35-80)'

Sarah J Biggs:  'A Closer Look at the Iconography of the Bohun Psalter and Hours (Egerton MS 3277)'

Nicole Eddy: 'Interoffice Memos: Instructions to Illustrators and Rubricators'

This workshop is designed primarily for MA and PhD students of manuscript studies, but it is also open to any member of the public with a particular interest in the subject.  If you would like to attend, please email Royal-Manuscripts-Digitization [at] by 5 November at the latest.  Spaces are limited to a maximum of 15 participants, so an early response is encouraged.  There is, however, a possibility of holding additional sessions in future, so please do get in touch if you would like to attend.

28 September 2012

The Miroir Historial: A History of the World in a (Large) Nutshell

Add comment Comments (0)


Detail of a miniature of Caesar crossing the Rhine, with the arms of the Holy Roman emperor held by one of the soldiers, at the beginning of book 7, from the Miroir Historiale (translated by Jean de Vignay from Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum historial), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479-1480, Royal MS 14 E. i, part II, f. 50r

The Miroir Historial (Mirror of History), an encyclopaedia of world history in French, was a part of Edward IV's collection of illustrated historical works produced in Bruges in the early 1470s.  Now part of the Royal Collection, it featured in the Royal Exhibition earlier this year at the British Library, and is now digitised in full on our Digitised Manuscripts site (click here for Part I, and here for Part II of the manuscript).  The text, a history of the world from Creation to the year 1250, is fully readable and the colourful images accompanying each section are available to view in detail on our website.

The Miroir Historial is based on the historical section of the Speculum maius or 'Great Mirror', a vast Latin work by the Dominican scholar Vincent de Beauvais, produced between 1230 and 1260, during the reign of the saintly King Louis IX of France. This medieval equivalent of Wikipedia was a collection of all the knowledge of the Middle Ages, compiled from a wide variety of sources, including Christian, classical, Arabic and Hebrew.  It is a monumental work of scholarship in three volumes, divided into 80 books or 9885 chapters, which became the leading reference work of its day. The Speculum was made up of three parts, each one covering a different branch of knowledge: the Mirror of Nature, the Mirror of Doctrine and the Mirror of History (a fourth part, the Mirror of Morality, was added later).



Detail of a miniature of the birth of Alexander the Great, at the beginning of book 5, from the Miroir Historial (translated by Jean de Vignay from Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum historiale), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479-1480, Royal MS 14 E. i, part 1, f. 177v


The Speculum Historiale was translated into French by a Knight Hospitaller, Jean de Vignay, in the 14th century. It covers the entire history of man from the Creation up to Vincent's lifetime, including tales of Alexander the Great, Mahomet, Charlemagne and Brutus, the mythical founder of Britain, and ending with King Louis' crusade to the Holy Land in 1250. Although the French version does not seem to have had a wide circulation, judging by the relatively small number of surviving manuscripts, the work was dedicated to Jeanne, wife of Philip VI of France and was owned by important collectors such as John, Duke of Berry.



Miniature of Vincent of Beauvais as a Dominican monk, sitting at a desk and writing his book, at the beginning of book 1, with a full border containing the Royal arms of England, from the Miroir Historial (translated by Jean de Vignay from Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum historiale), Netherlands (Bruges), 1479-1480, Royal MS 14 E. i, part 1, f. 3r


Edward IV's copy contains an iconic image of Vincent de Beauvais writing at his desk (which visitors to the Royal exhibition might remember).  Behind Vincent can be seen his collection of beautifully-bound books on shelves, an indication of the possible outward appearance of the work in its original binding, which does not survive.  The artists responsible for this and the other smaller miniatures in the manuscript were professionals from a Bruges atelier that produced other books for the English king. The borders contain Edward's coat of arms, and Royal insignia of the type found in many of Edward's manuscripts, over forty of which are in the British Library's collections today.

- Chantry Westwell