THE BRITISH LIBRARY

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242 posts categorized "Latin"

17 August 2018

A bumper crop of manuscripts (part 1)

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The summer holidays may be here but we have been busy at the British Library, adding more items to our Digitised Manuscripts site. Here are some of the highlights.

 

The beautiful: a Spanish Book of Hours

This gorgeous Book of Hours, about the size of a modern paperback, contains 10 full-page miniatures — attributed to Juan de Carrion, an artist associated with Toledo — and 14 illuminated initials, with full borders in glorious pinks, blues and greens. They are decorated with an amazing variety of flowers, birds and all manner of creatures. This is one of eight stunning illuminated manuscripts acquired from the collector and philanthropist, Charles William Dyson Perrins (1864–1958) of Lee and Perrins, the makers of Worcester sauce. They include the Gorleston Psalter, the de Brailles Hours and the Hours of Elizabeth the Queen.

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The Circumcision of Christ, from a Book of Hours, Spain, 4th quarter of the 15th century: Add MS 50004, f. 41v

 

The bejewelled: Isocratis de Regno

These two works by Isocrates and Lucian were translated by Johannes Boerius or Giovanni Battista Boerio (d. before 1530), for Prince Henry, the future Henry VIII. Boerio was astrologist and physician to Henry VII, and this copy was made for him in Italy by Pierantonio Sallando. It contains gold borders with jewelled decoration at the beginning of each text. Lucian’s work, usually known as De calumnia, is titled Non facile credendum esse calumniate (‘On not believing rashly in slander’), good advice for a young monarch, but not necessarily followed by Henry VIII later in his reign, particularly with regard to the treatment of his wives.

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The opening page of Lucian, De calumnia, with a border incorporating the arms of Henry VII and Henry VIII, supported by the dragon and greyhound, and in the border, phoenixes and leopards, and numerous all'antica elements such as vases, cornucopia, and jewels with foliate motifs, northern Italy (Bologna), c. 1505: Add MS 19553, f. 19r

 

The fabulous: the Spalding manuscript

This collection of Old French texts contains a rare copy of Le Songe Vert, accompanied by a chanson de geste, two classical romances and the Ordene de Chivalrie, a set of instructions on chivalry allegedly given by Hue de Tabarie to Saladin. Le Songe Vert is a 14th-century allegorical poem, written in the Picard dialect and described by its early editor, Leopold Constans, as a ‘curieux poeme’. At the end of the plague of 1347–48, the author dons a black mourning dress and wanders into an orchard. He is consoled by a vision of love and returns with his dress a bright green. You may wonder why this volume is known as the 'Spalding manuscript': its name refers to a previous owner, Maurice Johnson (1815–1861) of Ayscoughfee Hall, Spalding, in Lincolnshire.

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The opening page of Le Songe Vert, from the Spalding manuscript, France, 14th century: Add MS 34114, f. 227r

 

The weird: Liber Belial

The Liber Belial or Processus Luciferi contra Jesum Christum takes the form of a lawsuit between Lucifer and Jesus Christ, with Solomon presiding. The Devil sues Christ for trespass by descending into Hell. A note on f. 2v states that the text was written on 30 October 1382 at Aversa, near Naples; it is dedicated to Angellus de Castellone of Arezzo, archpriest of Padua.

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The opening page of the Liber Belial, Naples, 1382: Harley MS 3134, f. 3r

 

The boastful: the life and genealogy of Edward IV

For any aspiring medieval ruler intent on vaunting their prowess and legitimate claim to the throne, a connection to biblical antecedents was an absolute must. In this roll five pairs of large coloured miniatures each show an event in the career of King Edward IV on the right, with its biblical type or precedent on the left. It provides an allegorical representation of Edward's success and the fulfilment of the prophecies that he would attain the throne. To crown it all, his genealogical tree below is in the form of a biblical tree of Jesse (traditionally portraying Christ’s descent from King David), and shows Henry III reclining at the bottom, with Edward IV and Henry VI emerging as opponents at the top.

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The life and genealogical tree of King Edward IV, England, 1461–c. 1470: Harley MS 7353, f. 1r

 

The wonderful: Ovide moralise and other French texts

In this French translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is illustrated the legend of the ill-fated lovers, Pyramus and Thisbe. Here they are shown at their secret meeting place under a mulberry tree. Pyramus, believing Thisbe to have been killed by a lion, has fallen on his sword and lies dead. Thisbe is about to plunge his sword into her throat. As a result, the gods changed the colour of mulberries to red to honour their forbidden love. This manuscript also contains Christine de Pizan's L'Epistre Othea, in which Hector, prince of Troy, is tutored in statecraft and political morality by Othea, the goddess of wisdom.

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Pyramus and Thisbe beside a fountain, from Ovid's Metamorphoses, southern Netherlands, 4th quarter of the 15th century: Royal MS 17 E IV, f. 55r

 

We are adding new content to Digitised Manuscripts every week. A second blogpost will describe some of the other recent additions: keep your eyes peeled!

 

Chantry Westwell

Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval

 

15 August 2018

New papyrus position at the British Library

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The British Library is delighted to be able to offer a full time papyrus cataloguing and researcher post to work on our world-famous collection of Greek and Latin papyri. This one-year, fixed-term position will be based in the Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts section of the Library’s Western Heritage Collections department in London.

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Drawing from a collection of magical spells, Egypt (Hermopolis), 5th century: Papyrus 122

The British Library holds one of the world's most important collections of Greek papyri. Its diverse holdings comprise unique witnesses of Greek classical literature, early biblical fragments, magical papyri and an extensive corpus of Greek documentary papyri. This collection of more than 3000 items is now being fully digitised and published online. Newly created images, accompanied with new catalogue entries, will be accessible on the Library’s Digitised Manuscripts site as well as in a new viewer with additional functionalities to enhance further research.

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The Constitution of Athens, Papyrus 131, in our new Universal Viewer

The post-holder will contribute towards the cataloguing associated with this digitisation project. They will create and enhance catalogue entries for the newly-digitised items and will oversee the processing of digital images. Using their specialist knowledge of Greek papyrology and expertise in Ancient Greek and Latin, the cataloguer will be expected to promote the papyrus collection to a wide range of audiences using the Medieval Manuscripts Blog and Twitter feed, as well as participating in events at the Library.

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A 6th-century Latin papyrus fragment of a homily by Gregory the Great: Cotton MS Titus C XV, f. 1r

This post provides the opportunity for someone with a strong background in Greek papyrology to join a dynamic and diverse team to support the full digitisation and online presentation of one of the world’s greatest collections of Greek papyri.

To apply, please visit www.bl.uk/careers. Full details of the position (reference 02248) can be found here.

Closing date: 9 September 2018

Interviews will be held on: 19 September 2018

09 August 2018

Silos manuscripts in our Treasures Gallery

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Take a summer holiday to 11th/12th century Spain with our two manuscripts from the abbey of Silos. You can stop by the British Library to see these manuscripts in person in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery, or you can follow the links below to admire them online.

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The Silos Apocalypse: Add MS 11695, f. 21r.

In 1041 the Abbey of San Sebastián de Silos in northern Spain, near Burgos, gained a charismatic new abbot. St Domingo of Silos, as he would later become, transformed the abbey into one of Spain’s principal centres for learning and monastic reform. Among his achievements was the establishment of a library and scriptorium at the abbey. In the decades following his death, on 20 December 1073, the newly renamed Abbey of Santo Domingo produced an impressive number of manuscripts, many of which still survive.

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The Silos Apocalypse: Add MS 11695, ff. 145v–146r.

The most spectacular of these books is undoubtedly the Silos Apocalypse (Add MS 11695). With its vivid colours and striking designs, this manuscript belongs to a distinctive Spanish tradition of illuminated copies of Beatus of Liébana’s commentary on the Book of Revelation — the final book of the Christian Bible, foretelling the end of the world.

In this opening currently on display in our Treasures Gallery, the seventh angel sounds a trumpet on the left-hand page, which causes the Temple of God in heaven to open on the right-hand page, revealing the Ark of the Covenant inside (interpreted by Beatus as a symbol of Christ). Meanwhile, the beast (interpreted as the Antichrist) has risen from the abyss to persecute the saints. The interaction of the images across the two pages, along with the incorporation of marginal images and the use of different scripts and inks to articulate the text, demonstrates the manuscript’s sophisticated graphic design.

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The Silos Antiphonary: Add MS 30850, ff. 92v–93r.

Alongside the Silos Apocalypse you can see another manuscript made at the Abbey of Santo Domingo de Silos in the 11th/12th century (Add MS 30850). This manuscript is an Antiphonary, containing the music that was sung as part of the daily devotions at the Abbey. The page displayed includes the song for the evening office on Palm Sunday, with a Spanish form of musical notation written above the words.

The manuscript’s decorated initial letters share some of the bold linear style and vibrant colour palette of the Apocalypse manuscript beside it. Here, the opening monogram ‘VPR’ for Vespertinum (the chant for the evening office) is so highly abstracted that the letter forms are barely decipherable. It functions more as a finding aid and decoration for the text than as a word to be read.

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A decorated initial in the Silos Antiphonary: Add MS 30850, f. 101r.

To find out more about the Silos Apocalypse, we'd highly recommend our blogpost It's the end of the world as we know it, and Scot McKendrick & Kathleen Doyle, Bible Manuscripts: 1400 Years of Scribes and Scripture (London: The British Library, 2007), pp. 72–73. 

Eleanor Jackson

Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval 

03 August 2018

‘I, King Alfred …’

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The 870s were probably not King Alfred’s favourite decade. His brother, King Æthelred I had died after Easter 871, and Alfred became king in the middle of fierce fighting with viking forces. According to entries in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, compiled later in Alfred’s reign, West Saxon forces fought no fewer than nine battles that year alone. Alfred himself may have narrowly avoided capture. The rest of the decade did not go much better. His kingdom remained under attack as two ‘great armies’ advanced across the island, while neighbouring Anglo-Saxon kings were killed or disappeared.

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Entries for the years 872-876 in the second-oldest manuscript of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle: Cotton MS Tiberius A VI, f. 19r

Remarkably, a document survives on a single sheet of parchment from these turbulent early years of Alfred’s reign. It is one of only three documents in Alfred’s name that survive in copies made during his lifetime: the others are British Library Cotton MS Augustus II 28 and Canterbury, DCc/ChAnt/F/150 (formerly D. & C., Red Book no. 11). This particular document records how, in 873, the archbishop of Canterbury sold land at Ileden in Kent to a man called Liaba for 25 gold coins, apparently with King Alfred’s permission:

‘In the name of the nourishing, three-part divinity, I, King Alfred, with the consent and permission and advice of my wise counsellors, in hope of eternal reward. I, Æthelheard, archbishop, and all my household from Christ Church give to Liaba, Birgwine’s son, [the land that] we call Gilding … for 25 coins of good gold ...’

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Grant of King Alfred of the West Saxons (r. 871–899) and Archbishop Æthelred of Canterbury (d. 888) to Liaba, 873: Stowe Charter 19

This charter gives an important insight to events besides warfare that were taking place in Alfred’s domains, events which were often omitted from the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’s panicked narrative for the 870s. Land was still being bought and sold. The church at Canterbury may even have been motivated to sell off their property to pay for extra defences, as has been suggested by Susan Kelly and Nicholas Brooks.

This charter also suggests that Latin learning had somewhat declined at Canterbury, or at least that documents were being written by people whose grammar and syntax left something to be desired. Charters produced at Canterbury had shown a decline in the quality of Latin and handwriting since the reign of Æthelwulf, Alfred's father; but this particular charter-writer made some spectacular errors. The first sentence is missing a verb. It starts out as though it were a charter issued by King Alfred, then switches suddenly to record a sale by the archbishop of Canterbury. Did the writer start writing one document and then change his mind? The writer routinely swapped ‘b’ for ‘u’, writing ‘obserbe’ instead of ‘observe’ (obserbare for observare). He also used ð, a symbol used to represent the ‘th’ sound, for ‘d’, even though the ‘th’ sound did not really exist in Latin. Most jarringly, the scribe occasionally replaced words in common phrases with something that sounded similar but does not quite make sense. For example, he tried to warn that anyone who contravened the terms of this sale would have to ‘give his account before the Lord’ (coram Deo … rationem reddere). However, he instead wrote ‘sciad se rectum redditurum coram a Deo’, which could be uncharitably interpreted as ‘render his bottom/intestine before God’. The charter-writer also copied the witness-list from older sources, so it includes several people who were long dead by 873.

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Detail of Stowe Ch 19, including the Old English addition in a darker ink

That said, while the script of the charter may not have been the finest and the Latin not the most grammatical, it was still valued. Soon after it was made, a different hand added in English, ‘Leafa [another spelling of Liaba?] bought this charter and this land from Archbishop Æthelred and from the community at Christ Church, with the freedom as that given to Christ Church, in perpetual possession’. On the back of the document, a contemporary scribe wrote, ‘This is the charter for Gilding’, so that it could be easily identified.

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The dorse of the charter: Stowe Ch 19

After the rocky start to his reign, Alfred’s fortunes improved. He won major battles and secured his territories. There was such a revival of learning in the 890s that Alfred’s name became associated with one of the first major flowerings of English literature.

The British Library's Anglo-Saxon charters have now been added to our Digitised Manuscripts site. To learn more about Alfred and the later part of his reign, please come to our major exhibition, Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, which opens at the British Library on 19 October 2018.

 

Alison Hudson

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01 August 2018

A calendar page for August 2018

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It’s August and time for the harvest. Don’t know what to do? Never fear! This 1000-year-old calendar provides step-by-step instructions for cutting and collecting grain in the form of an illustration at the bottom of the page for August. This calendar is one of only two surviving calendars from pre-Norman England to be illustrated with agricultural scenes. To learn more about it, please see our earlier blogpost.

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Page for August, from a calendar made in southern England in the 1st half of the 11th century: Cotton MS Julius A VI, f. 6v

Step 1: Cut the stalks with your sickle. We recommend an iron sickle, available in any good medieval emporium.

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Step 2: Pass the loose stalks to a friend who has rope to tie them together.

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Step 3: Carry the stalks to a nearby cart.

Step 4: Toss the stalks to the man with a pitchfork next to the cart.

Step 5: The man with the pitchfork will collect the harvest in the cart.

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In this image, the harvesting is being overseen by a figure with a spear and a dramatically billowing cape who blows a horn. The horn was written over by some of the Greek letters used in calendrical calculations that are listed in columns in this calendar. 

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The original users of this calendar would have appreciated this image for more than its literal depiction of the harvest. This calendar was probably made for a monastic community, and many of the agricultural tasks coincided with metaphors used in the Bible. There were many Biblical stories about harvesting grain with sickles, particularly in the Old Testament and the Book of Revelation. The first users of this calendar may have seen a deeper meaning in this illustration, as well as a reflection of daily life.

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Detail of harvesting: Cotton MS Julius A VI, f. 6v

The month of August was not all work and no fun. The users of this calendar marked out four feast days with gold crosses. These were probably not the only feast days celebrated in August, as the verses next to each day in the calendar were composed at least a century before this calendar was made, and new feasts had been popularised by the time the calendar was being made in the 11th century. On 10 August, a gold cross singles out the day 'St Laurence caught fire'. Laurence was said to have been roasted on a gridiron by his tormentors. 

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The martyrdom of St Laurence, from the Caligula Troper, western England, 11th century: Cotton MS Caligula A XIV, f. 25r

The Assumption of the Virgin, when Mary was taken into Heaven, was commemorated on 15 August and marked in gold. 25 August is also marked out, but this may be a mistake for 24 August, the feast of St Bartholomew. St Bartholomew's feast is marked in other 11th-century English calendars, including the Tiberius Work Calendar (Cotton MS Tiberius B V/1), which includes the same poem as and similar illustrations to the Julius Work Calendar. St Bartholomew was martyred by being flayed, but the calendar says merely 'on 24 August, Bartholomew migrated to eternity'. The last feast singled out on this page was the beheading of St John the Baptist, commemorated on 29 August. The text notes that John's head was cut off 'with a sharp sword'. 

The whole calendar has been digitised thanks to the The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project. Happy harvesting! 

Alison Hudson

Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval

 

Part of the Polonsky Digitisation Project

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29 July 2018

Pilgrimages: medieval summer holidays?

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In Chaucer’s famous opening line to the Canterbury Tales, ‘Aprille with his shoures soote’ (April with its sweet showers) was the time when people longed to set off on their travels. Of course, holidays as we know them were not enjoyed by medieval folk. The word itself comes from ‘Holy Days’ in the Church calendar, when a break from daily routine usually involved praying and fasting, not sunbathing and drinking cocktails on the beach. But people have always enjoyed visiting new places, and so pilgrimages were a popular way of taking a break at the same time as showing piety and atoning for one’s sins — a great all-inclusive package!  

One medieval pilgrim was St Roch, who tended plague victims. He is usually pictured in typical pilgrim’s garb, with the staff, scrip or bag and shell (the symbol of Santiago and all pilgrims) on his hat. When he caught the plague himself, he was healed by a hunting dog who licked his wounds and brought him bread.

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Miniature of Roch, showing a plague-spot on his thigh, with an angel and a dog holding a loaf, from the Prayer-book of Joanna of Ghistelles, Ghent, c. 1516: Egerton MS 2125, f. 209v

Instead of backpacking in Thailand, booking a package holiday to the Costa Brava or braving the traffic jams to the English seaside, medieval pilgrims headed for Palestine, northern Spain or Kent. Some of the leading destinations for English pilgrims were Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Canterbury.

 

Pilgrimage to the Holy Land

The holy places in Palestine were the ultimate destination for medieval Christian pilgrims, although the journey could be arduous. Margery Kempe, the famous English mystic, travelled from Norfolk to Jerusalem and Rome in 1413–15, as recounted in her autobiography. Even kings could be pilgrims, including Louis IX of France: when on crusade to the Holy Land in 1251, he went on a pilgrimage from Acre to Nazareth on the Feast of the Annunciation.

Travellers to distant places needed maps. This plan of Jerusalem is found in a book of maps and sea charts, produced in Venice. It shows the holy sites including David's Tower, the Holy Sepulchre, Calvary, Pilate's house, St Anne's house and the Temple of Solomon.

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Plan of Jerusalem in Pietro Vesconte’s book of charts, maps and plans, Venice, c. 1331: Add MS 27376*

 

Pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

This city in northern Spain is believed to be the resting place of St James, one of the twelve apostles. According to legend, James went to Spain to spread the Gospel before returning to Jerusalem, where he was beheaded. His friends placed his head and body in a boat, which miraculously carried them to the Galician coast. After suffering trials and persecutions at the hands of local pagans, they finally buried his remains on a hill (now the site of the famous cathedral of Santiago), where they lay forgotten for many centuries. The cult of St James was revived in the 7th and 8th centuries when Christianity in Spain was under threat from Muslim expansion. St James allegedly appeared in a dream to Charlemagne, urging him to liberate his tomb from the Moors and showing him the direction to follow by the Milky Way: the name Compostela is believed to derive from the Latin campus stellae (field of stars).

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Charlemagne pointing the way to Spain, from the Chroniques de France, Paris, 1st half of the 14th century: Royal MS 16 G VI, f. 166r

The first known pilgrim to Santiago de Compostela was Gotescalc, bishop of Puy in France, who visited the shrine in 950. The Empress Matilda, granddaughter of William the Conqueror, went on pilgrimage there in 1097. By the 12th century, half a million pilgrims were travelling from as far as Scandinavia, England and southern Italy, and hospitals, hostels, roads and bridges had been built to accommodate them. A pilgrims’ guide, the Liber Sancti Iacobi, was produced, listing the towns along the way, providing useful phrases in Basque to use when travelling through that region, and warning pilgrims against certain local foods and customs.

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St James, in the Liber Sancti Jacobi, Santiago?, 1st half of the 14th century: Add MS 12213, f. 3v 

The Camino de Santiago is now a very popular pilgrimage route, with many walking from St Jean Pied de Port in the Pyrenées, a journey of six weeks. Getting there and back is much easier than in the Middle Ages, when most people walked or rode on horseback. The ‘Camino Ingles’ (English Way) has starting points at the ports of La Coruña and Ferrol, where medieval pilgrims arrived by boat from Britain.

 

Pilgrimage to Canterbury

Pilgrims came from all corners of Europe to worship at Canterbury Cathedral, where Archbishop Thomas Becket was murdered by four knights on the evening of 29 December 1170. In this compilation of Becket’s letters, accompanied by John of Salisbury's account of his life and death, is an image showing the martyrdom in four narrative scenes. The upper two depict Becket at table, being told of the knights' arrival. The lower sections show Becket’s martyrdom in the church and the later veneration of his shrine by four kneeling figures.

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The martyrdom of Thomas Becket, England, 4th quarter of the 12th century: Cotton MS Claudius B II, f. 341r

Chaucer’s pilgrims travelled from Southwark in London to Becket’s shrine at Canterbury. The routes from London and Winchester remain popular with modern pilgrims, passing through the Sussex and Kent countryside.

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Pilgrims on the road to Canterbury, from John Lydgate’s Prologue of the Siege of Thebes, London, c. 1457–1460: Royal MS 18 D II, f. 148r

 

‘Couch’ pilgrimages

Many people like to watch travel programmes on television, seeing places we may never visit. Some people were unable to go on pilgrimage, but they could make a spiritual journey using guides or maps. Numerous medieval versions of the allegorical pilgrimage were written for this purpose, where the pilgrim had to overcome various obstacles to reach the final goal of spiritual fulfilment. In this French text, the pilgrim is guided by the lady Grace-Dieu.

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The pilgrim is given his bag by Grace-Dieu, from Guillaume Deguilleville, Les Trois Pèlerinages, France, c. 1400: Add MS 38120, f. 28r

Matthew Paris’s famous itinerary of the route to Jerusalem is considered to be a guide for a spiritual rather than a real journey from London to the Holy Land, as he does not provide distances or practical details. As far as we know, Matthew never made the journey himself, instead learning of the route from travellers who passed through St Albans Abbey in the 13th century. The first part of his plan shows the journey from London in the lower left-hand column to Dover and then, in the right-hand column, from Boulogne-sur-Mer on the French coast to Beauvais. Each place is one day’s journey from the preceding one.

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Section of an illustrated itinerary to Jerusalem, from London to Beauvais, St Albans, 1250s: Royal MS 14 C VII, f. 2r

 

Animal pilgrims

In the medieval world, animals also went on pilgrimage. Here is an example from the Smithfield Decretals.

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A rabbit shooting at a dog who is dressed as a pilgrim, from the glossed Decretals of Gregory IX  (the 'Smithfield Decretals'), Toulouse?, late 13th or early 14th century: Royal MS 10 E IV, f. 57v

In this collection of animal tales in German, a fox, having grown old and setting off on a pilgrimage, refuses the companionship of the watch-dog, wild ass, bear, lion, peacock, wolf, pig and mule. Instead, he chooses to travel with the panther, ape, lamb, hare, hedgehog, ox, the young hound and the ant (let’s hope someone offers the ant a ride!).

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A fox choosing its companions for a pilgrimage, from Ulrich von Pottenstein, Spiegel der Weisheit, Salzburg, c. 1430: Egerton MS 1121, f. 36r

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Chantry Westwell

Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval

26 July 2018

The Arnstein Bible: a grand monastic Bible

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In addition to their size and legibility, Romanesque giant Bibles sometimes indicate that they are great monastic books, by including all three of St Jerome’s translations of the Psalms in parallel columns. In the Arnstein Bible, for example, the Gallicanum of the Vulgate appears first, but is accompanied by the Romanum and the Hebraicum, the last a translation made directly from the Hebrew that was never used liturgically. Moreover, each of these three versions is illustrated. This virtuoso display of learning is found in Giant Bibles made in the Mosan and Rhenish regions in particular, although two English examples also survive. These features constitute important material evidence of the status and wealth of the monasteries that commissioned and produced these Bibles: as C. M. Kauffmann stated, they are ‘symbols of monastic corporate authority’ (Biblical Imagery in Medieval England 700-1550 (London, 2003), p. 149).

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The beginning of the Psalms in the Arnstein Bible: Harley MS 2799, f. 5r.

A splendid example of this occurs in the Arnstein Bible, now on display in the British Library’s Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery. The Psalms occur in the second volume, and are set out in three parallel columns of text, beginning with a large initial ‘B’(eatus) (blessed) created by elaborated foliate forms, clasps, and to the right, intertwined dogs or other quadrupeds. 

In the initials for the beginning of Psalm 101, ‘D’(omine) features different figures in the bowl of the letter: Christ blessing, the Virgin and Child, and a bishop.

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Christ blessing, the Virgin and Child, and a bishop, at the beginning of Psalm 101: Harley 2799, f. 40r (detail).

The Arnstein Bible was produced at the Premonstratensian abbey of St Mary and St Nicholas, Arnstein, in Germany. This abbey was founded in 1139 by Ludwig III (d. 1185), the last count of Arnstein, who became a lay brother and donated his castle to the new Order, established at Prémontré in northern France in 1120. Ludwig’s wife, Guda, became a hermit living in the abbey grounds. Originally, annals recording important events relating to the abbey were part of the Bible (now preserved in Darmstadt, Hessische Landesbibliothek, MS 4128). The entry for 1172 states that the book (liber iste) was written in that year by a brother called Lunandus, and asks that whoever reads it should pray that he rest in peace: ‘Qui ergo legit, dicat: Anima eius requiescat in pace’

The manuscript is also available in full on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts website: volume 1 (Harley MS 2798) and volume 2 (Harley MS 2799).

 

Kathleen Doyle

Follow us on Twitter @BLMedieval

 

19 July 2018

Leeds in July: The Polonsky Foundation Pre-1200 Project

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For the past twenty-five years, thousands of medievalists from around the world have travelled every July to the Leeds International Medieval Congress. This is the United Kingdom’s largest academic conference and one of the largest global gatherings of medievalists. With nearly 3,000 participants this year, the IMC provided the perfect opportunity for The Polonsky Foundation England and France Project team to showcase their work ahead of its official launch in November.

On the morning of 3 July, the project’s cataloguers, Laura Albiero and Francesco Siri from the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and Cristian Ispir from the British Library, presented research on manuscripts in the project, highlighting aspects which have benefitted particularly from the availability of digital images. Thanks to The Polonsky Foundation, everyone will soon be able to access 800 medieval manuscripts online.

Laura’s paper gave examples of the project’s liturgical manuscripts, and discussed how the names of different saints in the calendars help us to trace the origin and movement of individual manuscripts across the Channel. Erasures and additions tell their own tale of changing ownership through analysis of the veneration of particular local saints.

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Laura Albiero discussing a calendar originally from 12th-century Tewkesbury, now Paris, BnF, Latin 9376.

Cristian followed with an overview of author portraits and decorative elements in manuscripts containing Classical Latin texts. Francesco’s presentation focused on diagrams and their use in texts such as philosophical works, and defined the different functions they perform.

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Cristian Ispir and Francesco Siri presenting on the visual content in some of the project manuscripts.

The second session presented by the team gave an overview of the project itself. Tuija Ainonen, The Polonsky Foundation Project Curator at the British Library, drew attention to The Polonsky Foundation and the roles of the two project partners. She highlighted the various goals of the project: the full digitisation of 800 manuscripts (400 from the British Library and 400 from the BnF); the publication of a book highlighting selected manuscripts from the project; and the building of two websites — one hosting all 800 manuscripts, with 260,000 digitised images in total, and another bilingual interpretative site for a wide public audience which will present a selection of manuscripts in the project. Even interoperable image viewers, annotations, and the plan to allow image downloads had their few minutes in the spotlight: see this earlier blogpost for more details.

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The project’s coordinators Tuija Ainonen and Francesco Siri at the discussion and question time.

The audience then saw the different stages in the digitisation of 800 manuscripts and online publication in various forms. In this evening session Francesco Siri discussed the demands and challenges of cataloguing and conservation in digitisation projects. Alison Ray, Curatorial Web Officer at the British Library, discussed the workflow, from photography and image processing through to presentation in various online environments including social media and the bilingual interpretative website that will launch in November. She also reminded the audience that 600 project manuscripts are already fully digitised and available via Digitised Manuscripts for the British Library and Gallica for the BnF.

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Alison Ray discussing the various digital environments for showcasing selected manuscripts.

As the project is ongoing, the IMC presentation was very much a sneak preview of things to come. Our readers will be able to see the full outcomes at our project conference in Paris in 21–23 November 2018. Attendance is free but registration is required.

You will also be able to see some of the project’s manuscripts in the Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition that opens at the British Library on 19 October: tickets are available here. To hear more about Manuscripts in Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms, you can also attend a conference and early career symposium at the British Library on 13–15 December: please book tickets here.

 

The Polonsky Pre-1200 Project Team

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Part of the Polonsky Digitisation Project

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