“Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated Manuscripts” on display at Fitzwilliam’s in Cambridge

Colour: The Art and Science of Illuminated #Manuscripts on display at Fitzwilliam’s in #Cambridge @FitzMuseum_UK

CAMBRIDGE (UK) – A new exhibition in Cambridge, UK celebrates the Fitzwilliam Museum’s 2016 bicentenary with a stunning display of 150 manuscripts from its rich collections – many on display for the first time. “Colour. The Art and Science of Illuminated manuscripts” shows a collection which ranges from the prayer books of European royalty and merchants to local treasures like the Macclesfield Psalter, from an alchemical scroll and a duchess’ wedding gift to the ABC of a five-year old princess.

The Fitzwilliam preserves the finest and largest museum collection of illuminated manuscripts in existence, and manuscripts were at the heart of the Founder’s collection with which the Museum was established in 1816. Among the treasures which Richard, 7th Viscount Fitzwilliam of Merrion (1745-1816), bequeathed to the University of Cambridge were 130 illuminated manuscripts.

In his 1895 catalogue of the Founder’s collection, the Fitzwilliam Director Montague Rhodes James appealed to potential benefactors to think of the Museum as a place where their ‘manuscripts would be choicely valued, religiously preserved, and minutely investigated.’ Among the bequests and donations which flowed into the Museum over the next two decades was one of the largest and finest private collections of medieval manuscripts. In 1904, the astronomer and inventor Frank McClean bequeathed over 200 volumes and some 130 illuminated fragments. The 1912 bequest of Charles Brinsley Marlay’s eclectic collection included one of the largest groups of illuminated fragments ever amassed – well over 250. These bequests quadrupled and diversified the Museum’s holdings.

The collection grew further under James’ successor, Sydney Cockerell, the longest serving and most acquisitive Fitzwilliam Director (1908-1937) to date. His vision, scholarship and passion for manuscripts have inspired more recent acquisitions, notably the Macclesfield Psalter, purchased in 2005 with overwhelming public support.

The exhibit also showcases advanced research undertaken by the Fitzwilliam’s curators, scientists and conservators involved in the Cambridge Illuminations and MINIARE projects. It celebrates modern-day discoveries inspired by collections assembled over 200 years.  These discoveries can be seen on display at the Museum until December  30th or can be explored online at this link.

 

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MADRID / BNE announces exhibit on the Beatus “Commentary on the Apocalypse” corpus this autumn

#MADRID / BNE announces exhibit on the Beatus “Commentary on the Apocalypse” corpus this autumn
#medieval #manuscripts @bne @BNE_museo @BNE_directora  

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Beatus by Facundus, f°43v (Wikipedia),

MADRID [©EP- Minima Medievalia/Perceval Archeostoria] – The BNE, Biblioteca Nacional de España, has announced a special exhibition dedicated to Beatus of Liébana’s Commentary on the Apocalypse to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the great exposition that reunited for the first time a great number of codices of the so-called “Beatus”. The exposition,  Beato. El misterio de los siete sellos (Beatus. The mystery of the Seven Seals), will be hosted by the BNE this autumn beginning on September 23rd and proposes to unlock all secrets of the most well known Commentary on John’s Book of Revelation.
Written in the eighth century by the Spanish monk and theologian Beatus of Liébana, the book is world famous for its splendid and icastic illuminated miniatures, which can be seen in  26 surviving copies decorated between the 10th and the 11th century. The illuminated versions represent the best known works of Mozarabic art, and had great  influence on the medieval art of the rest of Europe.

VISIONS OF A JUDGEMENT – As reported on the World Digital Library, “around the year 776, a monk by the name of Beato or Beatus, possibly the abbot of the monastery of Santo Toribio de Liébana, wrote a work entitled Comentarios al Apocalipsis (Commentary on the apocalypse), which had an extraordinary success in the following five centuries. Thanks to his great erudition, Beato combined in this text, as a summa, many commentaries on the topic of the apocalypse by such authors as Saint Irenaeus of Lyon, Saint Gregory the Great, Saint Isidore of Seville, and the 4th-century scholar Ticonius. The genre of apocalyptic literature appeared in the Jewish tradition in the second century BC and had never ceased to be practiced. Obsessed like his contemporaries with the imminent coming of the end of the world, which, according to the calculations of the six ages was to take place in the year 800 (838 in the Spanish era), Beato wrote this work for the edification of his monks. He emphasized that, after the final terrifying catastrophes announced by Saint John the Evangelist, good would triumph over evil”.
The original codex most likely was illuminated but unfortunately has not been preserved. Only 35 manuscript copies dating from the 9th century to the 13th century have survived. By semantic extension, these manuscripts are called beato, and 26 of them are illuminated while some others are only fragments. Two are preserved at the BNE, the National Library of Spain.
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Beatus by Facundus, f°233v (Wikipedia)

EXPO & WEBSITE – The BNE exposition will mainly feature the most iconic manuscript of the corpus, the so called “Facundus” –  Codex Vitr/14/2 -, commissioned in 1047 by King Fernando I of León and Castille and Queen Sancha, and possibly done by a monk or scribe named Facundo in San Isidoro de León. Its 98 miniatures, endowed with amazing expressiveness, are distributed mostly on colorful horizontal stripes in a unique and unmistakable style that blends the Romanesque with various Mozarab and North African influences. Prominent among them are the Four Horsemen, the vision of celestial Jerusalem, the seven-headed snake, and the destruction of Babylon. The manuscript, owned by the Marquis of Mondéjar in the late 17th century, was confiscated with the rest of his library by Philip V during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The BNE has also announced the creation of a website entirely dedicated to the  corpus of manuscripts. The series of the Beatus codexes have been included in the Unesco Memory of the World Register in 2015.

©Elena Percivaldi / Perceval Archeostoria.
Italian version by same Author, linked by permission.

 

 

“Discoveries that changed the world”: an exhibition at Cambridge University Library

@theUL  #Discoveries that changed the world”: an #exhibition @cambridgeuniversitylibrary

CAMBRIDGE (UK) – (via Cambridge University Library) The wills of William Loring and William Hunden, both dated March 1416, bequeathed books to the library of the University of Cambridge. Their gifts are the earliest surviving references to a library specifically associated with the University. Six hundred years on it has grown from a small collection of manuscripts kept in chests into one of the world’s greatest university libraries. Today, the Library  holds over eight million items, ranging from ancient clay tablets, illuminated medieval manuscripts and early printed books to electronic journals, e-books and digital archives. The physical library now fills more than 128 miles of shelving and unseen terabytes of digital content support a global community of scholarship. This long fascinating history is the main feature of Discoveries that changed the world. Lines of thought, the oustanding exhibition open at the Cambridge University Library until Sept. 30th, 2016. 

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Parchment manuscript. MS Ii.6.32, ff. 29v (c) Cambridge University Library

Across six themes, this exhibition highlights key moments in the evolution of human thought. They show how the collections in Cambridge represent and underpin some of the most significant developments in human history.  Selected items from the exhibition have been digitised in full and added to the Lines of Thought collection in Cambridge Digital Library. Highlighted items from the exhibition are also available in an iPad app, Words that Changed the World, accompanied by discussions by Cambridge University experts; it can be downloaded free from the App Store. An introductory film gives an overview of the themes of the exhibition.

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Matthew Parker (1504–1575) De antiquitate Britannicae ecclesiae London: John Day, 1572 (c) Cambridge University Library

Weekly half-hour drop-in sessions, hosted by members of Library staff, introduce the exhibition every Friday morning at 10.30. More in-depth tours of the physical exhibition presented by specialist curators can be booked here.

VISIT VIRTUAL EXHIBITION.

Unesco lists Exeter Book among “world’s principal cultural artefacts”

[via The Guardian]  The Exeter Book, an Anglo-Saxon poetry anthology dating back more than 1,000 years, which has inspired writers from WH Auden to JRR Tolkien, has been granted Unesco status as “the foundation volume of English literature”.

Housed in Exeter Cathedral since it was given to the institution by its first bishop, Leofric, in the 11th century, the Exeter Book was written around 970. It contains some 40 poems and 96 riddles, a number of which are found nowhere else. On Tuesday, June 21st 2016 it was placed on Unesco’s Memory of the World register, where it will sit alongside works such as the Magna Carta, the Bayeux Tapestry, the Book of Kells and the Diary of Anne Frank.

“It is one of only four surviving major poetic manuscripts in [the Old English] vernacular,” said Unesco. “Since it is the largest and probably the oldest of them, and since its contents are not found in any other manuscript, it can claim to be the foundation volume of English literature, one of the world’s principal cultural artefacts.”

Read more about this on The Guardian.

VENICE / “Mindful Hands”: Masterpieces of Illumination from the Fondazione Cini on exhibit in September

An exhibition of over 120 illuminated pages and initials from one of the most important collections of miniatures worldwide, once owned by Count Vittorio Cini and presented to the Foundation in 1962

VENICE (ITALY) –  A great exhibition entitled Mindful Hands. Masterpieces of Illumination from the Fondazione Giorgio Cini is due to be staged on the Island of San Giorgio Maggiore in Venice from 17 September 2016 to 8 January 2017 (official opening: Friday, 16 September 2016). Produced by the Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Studio Michele De Lucchi and Factum Arte, the exhibition is being organised with the support of the Helen Hamlyn Trust and the contribution of Pirelli. For the first time in over 35 years more than half of one of the most fascinating, invaluable Fondazione Cini collections will be on show: the collection of 236 miniatures acquired by Count Vittorio Cini from the Libreria Antiquaria Hoepli in Milan in 1939-1940, and presented to the Foundation in 1962. Visitors will be able to admire a selection of over 120 of the most significant and important miniatures in the collection plus a group of particularly fine illuminated codices. The academic curators of the project are Federica Toniolo, a lecturer in the History of Illuminated Manuscripts at the University of Padua, and Massimo Medica, director of the Museo Civico Medievale, Bologna, who were also responsible for cataloguing the entire collection.

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Belbello da Pavia, page cut from Antiphonal with Annunciation in the initial M 1467-1470

 

One of the most important of its kind in the world, the Vittorio Cini miniature collection is made up of anthologies of illuminated leaves and cuttings of initials, mostly from liturgical works (graduals and antiphonals), comparable both in type and quality to collections such as the Wildenstein, now in the Musée Marmottan, Paris, or the Lehman collection, previously in storage in the Metropolitan Museum, New York. The Cini collection is representative of the principal regional Italian schools of manuscript illumination and includes works by some of the most pre-eminent illuminators, active from the 12th to the 16th centuries.

“Mindful Hands is part of the series of major exhibitions that the Fondazione Cini periodically holds to showcase its own collections, a remarkable heritage in historical, artistic and scholarly terms but little-known to the wider public”, explains Pasquale Gagliardi, Secretary General of the Fondazione Cini. “We have been working on this ambitious project focused on the collection of miniatures for years. The collection is unique in Italy and among the few of such high quality in the world. We achieved excellent results in terms of visitors and critical reception for the 2010 exhibition on the etchings of Giambattista Pianesi, for which all the works came from the archives of San Giorgio Maggiore. This encouraged us to continue the mission of promoting the so-called minor arts. And in fact the illuminators’ superb craftsmanship is in no way inferior to that of artists in other sectors of art.”

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Maestro Olivetano, cut from Gradual with Corpus Domini or Holy Communion by the Apostles, initial C

Produced with the coordination of the scholarly aspects by the Fondazione Cini Institute of Art History, the exhibition will have a fascinating itinerary created ad hoc for the spaces of the Sale del Convitto by the Studio Michele De Lucchi, aimed at also intriguing the non-specialist visitor. The exhibition will also be an opportunity to explore a specific phenomenon of collecting and taste: the practice of dismembering manuscripts – now deplorable – and putting only the leaves with figures, often only cuttings with initials, on the antiquarian market.

The only exhibit that does not now belong to the Fondazione Giorgio Cini is the magnificent Antiphonarium Q, on display courtesy of the library of the Benedictine Abbey of San Giorgio. A detached leaf from this codex is now in the Cini collection and it will be shown alongside the book at the beginning of the exhibition, thus virtually reuniting them and stressing that the image must always be seen in its textual context.

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Cristoforo Cortese, cut from liturgical manuscript Two saints inspired by God in the initial I (second quarter of 15th century)

But Mindful Hands is much more than a straightforward display of exhibits. An integral part of the project has been the collaboration with Adam Lowe’s Factum Arte, experts on digital techniques applied to the conservation, reproduction and interpretation of works of art. Digital media organised in a thoroughgoing art installation will highlight and “translate” this extraordinary heritage in a modern key. In this way visitors will be guided through the last sections devoted to the analysis and comprehension of the techniques involved in making illuminated manuscripts. There will also be an opportunity to examine close up two of the most precious manuscripts thanks to large-scale animations and reproductions: the Martirologio di Ferrara and the small but invaluable Book of Hours, commissioned by Ludovico il Moro. In addition, Factum Arte will make a facsimile of the Book of Hours for visitors to touch and leaf through.

The Helen Hamlyn Trust is an independent grant making Trust. Its principal focus is on the initiation of medium and long-term projects linked to the shared interests of Lady Hamlyn and her late husband Lord Hamlyn. The Trusts core ethos is to support the development of innovative projects, which aim to effect lasting change and improve quality of life. The Trust works in the fields of medicine; the arts and culture; education and welfare; healthy ageing; international humanitarian affairs; and heritage and conservation in India.

1,000-Year-Old Manuscript of Beowulf Digitized and Now Online

1,000-Year-Old Manuscript of Beowulf has been digitized by the British Library and is now online. It is the oldest surviving manuscript of the longest epic poem in Old English.

Beowulf is the longest epic poem in Old English, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest. More than 3,000 lines long, Beowulf relates the exploits of its eponymous hero, and his successive battles with a monster named Grendel, with Grendel’s revengeful mother, and with a dragon which was guarding a hoard of treasure.

The story of Beowulf

Beowulf is a classic tale of the triumph of good over evil, and divides neatly into three acts. The poem opens in Denmark, where Grendel is terrorising the kingdom. The Geatish prince Beowulf hears of his neighbours’ plight, and sails to their aid with a band of warriors. Beowulf encounters Grendel in unarmed combat, and deals the monster its death-blow by ripping off its arm.

There is much rejoicing among the Danes; but Grendel’s loathsome mother takes her revenge, and makes a brutal attack upon the king’s hall. Beowulf seeks out the hag in her underwater lair, and slays her after an almighty struggle. Once more there is much rejoicing, and Beowulf is rewarded with many gifts. The poem culminates 50 years later, in Beowulf’s old age. Now king of the Geats, his own realm is faced with a rampaging dragon, which had been guarding a treasure-hoard. Beowulf enters the dragon’s mound and kills his foe, but not before he himself has been fatally wounded.

Beowulf closes with the king’s funeral, and a lament for the dead hero.

When was Beowulf composed?

Nobody knows for certain when the poem was first composed. Beowulf is set in the pagan world of sixth-century Scandinavia, but it also contains echoes of Christian tradition. The poem must have been passed down orally over many generations, and modified by each successive bard, until the existing copy was made at an unknown location in Anglo-Saxon England.

How old is the manuscript?

Beowulf survives in a single medieval manuscript, housed at the British Library in London. The manuscript bears no date, and so its age has to be calculated by analysing the scribes’ handwriting. Some scholars have suggested that the manuscript was made at the end of the 10th century, others in the early decades of the 11th, perhaps as late as the reign of King Cnut, who ruled England from 1016 until 1035.

The most likely time for Beowulf to have been copied is the early 11th century, which makes the manuscript approximately 1,000 years old.

The contents of the manuscript

Apart from Beowulf, the manuscript contains several other medieval texts. These comprise a homily on St Christopher; the ‘Marvels of the East’, illustrated with wondrous beasts and deformed monsters; the ‘Letter of Alexander to Aristotle’; and an imperfect copy of another Old English poem, ‘Judith’.

Beowulf is the penultimate item in this collection, the whole of which was copied by two Anglo-Saxon scribes, working in collaboration.

Who owned the Beowulf-manuscript?

The first-recorded owner of Beowulf is Laurence Nowell (died c.1570), a pioneer of the study of Old English, who inscribed his name (dated 1563) at the top of the manuscript’s first page. Beowulf then entered the famous collection of Sir Robert Cotton (died 1631) – who also owned the Lindisfarne Gospels and the British Library’s two copies of Magna Carta – before passing into the hands of his son Sir Thomas Cotton (died 1662), and grandson Sir John Cotton (died 1702), who bequeathed the manuscript to the nation. The Cotton library formed one of the foundation collections of the British Museum in 1753, before being incorporated as part of the British Library in 1973.

Why is the manuscript damaged?

During the 18th century, the Cotton manuscripts were moved for safekeeping to Ashburnham House at Westminster. On the night of 23 October 1731 a fire broke out and many manuscripts were damaged, and a few completely destroyed.

Beowulf escaped the fire relatively intact but it suffered greater loss by handling in the following years, with letters crumbling away from the outer portions of its pages. Placed in paper frames in 1845, the manuscript remains incredibly fragile, and can be handled only with the utmost care.

Modern versions of Beowulf

Despite being composed in the Anglo-Saxon era, Beowulf continues to captivate modern audiences. The poem has provided the catalyst for films, plays, operas, graphic novels and computer games. Among the more notable recent versions are the films The 13th Warrior (1999), adapted from the novel Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton (d. 2008); the Icelandic-Canadian co-production Beowulf & Grendel (2005); and Beowulf (2007), starring Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and Angelina Jolie.

Beowulf has also been translated into numerous languages, including modern English, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Telugu (a Dravidian language spoken in India).

Perhaps the most famous modern translation is that by Seamus Heaney, Nobel Laureate in Literature, which won the Whitbread Book of Year Award in 1999. A children’s version by Michael Morpurgo, illustrated by Michael Foreman, was published in 2006.

See a full set of images on our Beowulf Digitised Manuscript or view the Electronic Beowulf, a collaboration between British Library and Kentucky University.

Via The British Library

Trinity College Celebrates 500th Manuscript Online

Trinity College Celebrates 500th Manuscript Online

Trinity College Library, Cambridge

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Bernard Gui (1260-1331) was a Friar-Preacher perhaps best known as an Inquisitor against the Albigensians (or Cathars). He ended his career as Bishop of Lodève. This manuscript (R.4.23) includes various works by Bernard, but we are highlighting the beautifully illustrated genealogical tree – Arbor genealogie regum – which traced the lineage of the French Kings from their Trojan origins (ff. 49v-52v).

Each page is a sequence of illuminated pictures which narrate the succession and genealogy of the kings of France. Each king is represented standing in a medallion in which their name and the length of their reign is also written. The kings have the royal insignia – the crown and sceptre – and are dressed in gowns covered with the fleur-de-lys. Beside them there are usually some smaller medallions in which their ancestors, offspring and spouses appear.

The tree begins on f.49v with medallions representing the chiefs…

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